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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa officials are hoping more people will consider taking in foster children, with more than 4,000 in need of a home.

The state’s shortage of foster families is most noticeable in the western part of the state, the Sioux City Journal reported .

Western Iowa has the highest child removal rate in the state, said Janee Harvey, chief of the Iowa Department of Human Services Child Welfare Bureau. It’s the result of a more active juvenile justice system and a higher rate of drug use in the region, she said.

“I think there’s always been a high need, but now it just seems like removals (of children from homes) have gone up,” said Dawn Luetje, program director for Lutheran Services in Iowa, a state contractor providing foster care and adoptive services in 30 western counties. “We really are trying just to make the community aware (of the need).”

Many children are forced to live in shelters, said Harvey.

Oftentimes, there aren’t enough available homes to match a child to a family. Foster families can limit accepting children based on age or eligibility for adoption. In some cases, foster families are at maximum capacity in their homes already.

Luetje said there’s a demand for African-American, Hispanic and Native American families, as well as families willing to take in teenagers, children with special needs and groups of three or more siblings.

“It really does take all kinds of families because all children have different needs,” Luetje said.

Chris and Sue Stanek became licensed foster care providers in September. They decided to become a foster family to help siblings stay together when separated from their parents.

“If you think you have an interest in it, just act on it and talk to someone about it,” said Chris Stanek. “When you realize the need, you realize it’s really worth it.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal,