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Foster care agencies in desperate need of foster parents across Hampton Roads

Leaders at Embrace Treatment Foster Care said they are in the greatest need of foster parents to take on kids over the age of 12, and groups of three or more.

NORFOLK, Va. — Foster care agency leaders in Hampton Roads tell 13News Now they are in desperate need of people with some room in their homes.

A private agency director in Norfolk said recently he hasn't had any luck finding foster homes for dozens of kids.

"Overall, I have been a foster parent to over 40 kids,” said Tre Watkins. “I have adopted four."

Over the last decade, Watkins’ family has grown. He’s a former Marine who has opened up his Chesapeake home. Loving homes like his are needed here in Hampton Roads.

"At any given day there are about 1,000 kids in Hampton Roads in foster care,” said Ronnie Gehring, the site director at Embrace Treatment Foster Care in Norfolk. It's a private agency caring for kids in the 757 that have experienced trauma.

Right now, he said they don't have enough foster families.

"Since June 13, I have had 56 referrals for kids needing a foster family and I did not have a single family to offer them,” Gehring said. “So, you have 56 kids who could be going to other agencies, but because I am friends with people at other agencies, I know that they don't have families either."

The need stretches across the state. Gehring said his agency has started receiving requests for child placements from hundreds of miles away.

"Harrisonburg, southwest Virginia, I never used to get,” Gehring said. “Those go to agencies in Roanoke, but the situation is so dire now that they are willing to just find a family anywhere so that child has a family."

In April, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin created the Safe and Sound task force to help place kids in foster homes after finding out some had spent the night in services buildings and hotels.

"I do know I have colleagues who are involved in that task force, but I don't know the extent of the work they are currently doing,” Gehring said.

Gehring said people interested in fostering first need to pass a background check and go through free training. While agencies wait for state assistance, Watkins is keeping busy.

“Right now, I am a foster parent to six boys,” Watkins said.

Watkins said he plans to foster for the rest of his life and capture sweet memories of his growing family.

"Consider it, because you are going to make a difference in this child's life,” Watkins said. “You are going to help them achieve their capabilities and most importantly you are going to make them a better citizen."

Gehring said they are in the greatest need of foster parents to take on kids over the age of 12, and groups of three or more kids.

Application for interested foster parents is located on the Embrace Treatment Foster Care website.

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