Shining a light on kids in foster care

Shining a light on kids in foster care
Hundreds of children in AL are available for adoption (Source: Pixabay images)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - May is National Foster Care Month. Here in Alabama, there are over 6,000 children in Alabama's foster care system. Hundreds of those children are also available for adoption.

One of those children used to be Bre Shands. Bre spent over three years in foster care before all the pieces came together.

"I didn't really feel like I was in a safe place," Bre said.

Bre found her safety net in Brooke and Jerry Shands. The couple knew the first time they saw Bre she was their daughter.

"What will you call each other? Am I Jerry? Am I dad? Am I Mr. Sands?" Jerry Shands said.

That question was quickly answered.

"Daddy!" Bre exclaimed.

"With Bre, we saw a significant change in her once she realized she was in a very safe, very stable environment. If you were to see her out in public with us, you wouldn't realize that she's not a biological child," Jerry Shands said.

"We have watched her be able to grow into a strong and confident person," Brooke Shands said.

While Bre has found her happy ending, there are another 6,277 children in Alabama's foster care system. That number has jumped by nearly 900 in the last two years.

Karen Smith, Alabama's Deputy Commissioner for Family and Children Services says the increase in the number of children in foster care is a direct result of the opioid crisis.

"They just want a home; they just want to be loved," Smith said. "Parents' substance abuse has impacted the number of children we've had to care for,"

Of the more than 6,000 children in foster care, 250 are available for adoption.

Here are just some of the children still available for adoption that we have featured on WSFA 12 News:

"They want what every other child wants and that's a regular family," Joycelyn Haywood, Heart Gallery Alabama said.

Heart Gallery Alabama advocates for children living in foster care. It tells the stories of those children through professional photos and videos connecting them with permanent homes. Sixty-five percent of the children they've featured have found their forever families.

"Before Heart Gallery existed, social workers would go to wherever the children were and take a Polaroid picture in front of a wall. These pictures their personalities and it shows them smiling, happy, and playing. It makes a huge difference," Haywood said.

Heart Gallery is also where the Shands first saw Bre. Bre now has the stability only a forever family can offer, the life every child deserves.

"I knew that I had a mom and dad that I could have forever and ever!" an overjoyed Bre said.

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