MARYSVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Indiana has more than 6,000 licensed foster parents, but with how many children are in need of home, that isn't enough.
Terrilynn Durnal, a licensing coordinator with the National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP), a foster care agency, believes now that kids are back in school, adults are able to see who is struggling.
"That's the hardest part for me when I see 30 referrals come through in a day, and I can't place any of them that is very hard. It's not uncommon for even 60-90 referrals to come through a week, and I maybe can place one kid," Durnal said. "We are seeing more kids come into foster care due to the pandemic.
"Also, I have seen referrals come through for children who lived with their grandparents, and now, they're grandparents are in the hospital ... due to COVID."
Durnal said NYAP Indiana currently has 600 kids in foster care at any given time but still gets 600-1,000 referrals every month.
"We also have anywhere from 500-600 teens that are just sitting in youth shelters," she said.
Keegan Coomer was placed in foster care at age 12 along with her younger siblings due to their parents' struggles with drug addiction. She and her siblings were eventually separated.
"Nobody really wants teenagers, and that's the sucky part," Coomer said. "But the older kids I feel like are probably the ones that need more love and care because they're older. They're going to remember more of the things they're going through."
There are more than 1,000 sibling groups in Indiana who are separated, according to Durnal, who was also one of Coomer's case managers. After moving around to several homes, Coomer found a permanent home through adoption. Her younger siblings, who are still in her life, were also adopted by their own foster family as well.
"They were an older couple. They're now my grandparents. Their daughter adopted me," Coomer said. "That's really what they wanted. They wanted older kids they could show love and help guide in the right direction. We need more people like that."
NYAP is working to get more people like that, offering 30- to 60-day virtual trainings so people can become licensed foster parents.
"Once you're licensed to be a foster parent, that doesn't mean the training ends either," Durnal said. "You continue to train throughout the year, and you have an amazing support system with NYAP by your side."
In Indiana and Kentucky, foster parents must be 21 or older, have a home with enough space and pass background checks along with other requirements.
Durnal and Coomer hope to see more people step up, to set kids on the right path for life.
"For me, it was being put into a place where I can see, you know, what a normal family looks like, what a good dynamic is, how to, you know, properly live a life," Coomer said. "If you have the room in your home and your heart, I think a really good thing to do, no matter what the age of the child."
"I mean if people don't step up and take these children, who are going to raise them?" Durnal added. "Who's going to take them? Who's gonna treat them right? I think it's all of our issue, you know, to help out and care for these children."
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