SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A non-profit with very selfless and meaningful ambitions launched Friday.
Its mission is simple: connect churches and businesses across Louisiana to strengthen the state's foster care system. Unite Ministries and the founder of the organization said it's part of his plan to make Louisiana the most "foster friendly" state in the nation.
"People want to be involved, they just don't know how," Streetman said. "You don't have to have a child in your home to be involved or make a difference."
Streetman said Unite Ministries is beginning with two programs meant to positively affect the lives of children in foster care.
The first involves what he calls "fosterships," which he said will fund a foster child's extra curricular activities and sports programs.
"If these children are in care and their peers and friends are doing these things, we want to be a part of allowing them to have the same freedoms and the same things to do."
Unite Ministries' second program focuses on at-risk teens in foster care, who may not have a strong foundation or support system. Streetman said, ideally, the organization would provide housing for parents interested in fostering one of these teens, alongside a series of mentors from local churches to serve as role models and counselors.
"To reach that age and be dealing with some of the things kids have to deal with now and to do that without people to love you and who care about you and are invested in you, I can't imagine," Streetman said.
KSLA News 12 spoke with Marketa Walters, Louisiana Secretary of Department of Children and Family Services, to learn more about just how many children are in need of a home and loving family across the state.
She said in 2017, there were close to 8-thousand children in foster care in Louisiana.
"We believe children should be raised in families, not in institutions or in group homes," Walters said. "We really wish that we had a family setting for every child that comes into the state's custody."
Walters noted a shortage of foster families across Louisiana. Specifically, for the nearly 4,800 children in foster care last month — there are between 2 thousand and 2,500 families readily available at a single time.
"Unfortunately, we don't have enough foster homes to have one home per child," Walters said. "We are always in need of good quality foster homes...we need a group of homes that are prepared to take children at all ages."
Streetman said though she wished Louisiana had more foster homes available, she said there are plenty of ways anyone can make a lasting difference in the lives of foster children. Often times, that means standing at the ready for a foster family.
"Being a foster parent is hard work and we don't pretend that it's not," Walters said. "They need support groups, they need people in their church that will understand what they're doing when they just need to vent...sometimes they need help getting a kid to a soccer game."
Walters said if you're interested in becoming a foster parent and want more information on the process, click here.