Eau Claire (WQOW) - The number of kids in foster care is rising in Eau Claire County, and there aren't enough foster parents to keep up.
Chelsea Smith is a foster mom in Eau Claire.
"There's a lot of kids out there that need help, and we want to be able to help heal and foster the resilience in them so that they can be good citizens, good productive members of society," said Smith.
For a year-and-a-half, she's fostered her current three children. However, Smith is one of few county foster parents, and the demand for them is growing.
"This year we have the highest number of children in care than we ever have," said Kerry Swoboda, social work manager at Eau Claire County Human Services. "So that is really kind of where we have a shortage of foster parents."
In 2016, there were 149 out-of-home children. In 2017, there were 168. So far in 2018, there are a record breaking 205. Big factors in the increase are drug and alcohol abuse.
"I think about 80 percent of some of the cases coming through, there's an impact of drug or alcohol in those situations," said Swoboda.
So, what happens when there aren't enough homes?
"When we don't have availability within the foster parents we have through the county, then we have to look to higher levels of care, which would be like treatment foster care typically, and that will often times result in kids not being able to stay within the community," said Swoboda.
This means some kids will have to move away from family, friends and even school. Smith said it's no small feat to be a foster parent, but encourages more to sign up.
"It's challenging, it's wonderful, it's rewarding, it's got it's ups and downs, but in the end, everyday I come home and I have three children running to the door excited to see me," said Smith.
Officials are hoping that by getting the word out about the shortage, more people may volunteer. To learn more about how you can be involved, visit Eau Claire County's website.