(KLTV) - Mary Leigh and Ronnie Dike have been fostering children for seven years. During that time they have had 22 children come through their lives and home. While one child stayed with them for as short as 3 weeks while another stayed with them for 2 and a half years. Right now the Dikes have six kids: two biological children, one adopted and 3 foster children.
"It's the best thing you can give a child. And it's so rewarding to see what you can show those kids, the kids, the love, the value of family and what love is about," Mary Leigh Dike said.
But unfortunately, there are not enough foster parents out there. Statewide there are about 30,000 children in foster care. Wood, Upshur, Anderson, Cherokee and Rusk all have around 20 foster families or less in their counties. Henderson and Harrison county have around 40 with 60 in Greg County and 134 in Smith County. Thousands of foster homes are still needed.
"Think about the kids. Sometimes we have no place for them to go. They are literally in the CPS office staying overnight. So that means it's a makeshift bed and little clothing. We've removed them from their home and now they are in this little building and they are not understanding. I think that is traumatic in and of it self. Even if you thought about fostering, just go ahead and do it," Katrena Larkin said.
Larkin says the requirements to become a foster parent are fairly simple. The whole process of paperwork, classes and home visits takes about 3 months.
"If you have the heart for it. We're not looking for superheroes. We're not looking for lone rangers. What we looking for families, parents who want to become foster parents and become part of a team," Larkin said.
And among those that do foster, there is a huge gap for school aged children.
"We have that gap were junior high and high school. We don't have a lot of those parents that are willing to take those kids," Larkin said.
In addition to a roof over their head, food on the table, clothes on their backs and a warm place to sleep, these children need emotional support too.
"They need that love. They need encouragement. They need nourishing. They need to be build back up. They need feel that security," Katrena Larkin said.
"Even if it's you love them for a little bit, plant a seed in their life and they can grow from it," Mary Leigh Dike said.
Growing through the Gift of Love.