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BOISE -- More than a thousand children entered Idaho's foster care system last year.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which runs the program, is asking for more people to step up and give these children homes. The need for foster homes has grown, with fewer and fewer people signing up to become foster parents since 2010.

About half of the foster homes the state works with are licensed for specific children, usually a relative taking their grandchild, niece or nephew. Health and Welfare said those foster parents typically do not continue to foster unrelated children.

Wendy and Jason Brown have five kids, and are fostering three more right now.

There is, I think, more poverty here than people realize, said Wendy Brown. There are families that are living with other families or with friends because they have lost their house, or they have lost their job, and they just can't make ends meet, and sometimes they end up turning towards drugs or alcohol. And it's the circumstances that end up with their children being placed in foster care.

Health and Welfare reports the number of foster families has decreased by 20 percent since 2010.

I don't think that people in the community really know that on a daily basis we're challenged to find homes for children that come into care, said Tim Sander, who works in foster care licensing with Health and Welfare.

Sander said it is challenging to get families to sign up because of all the misconceptions about foster care.

I think if people really saw it through the eyes of a child, and were aware of that, and deeply, deeply sensitive to what it meant, then I think that people would step forward, Sander said.

The Brown's have had 30 foster kids over the last two and a half years, and say it's challenging and rewarding for the whole family.

When they go home we get to see them take those skills with them, we get to see them having succeed in school, or succeeded in and completed speech therapy, or any of the other number of things we go through with them, said Wendy Brown.

The Browns hope others will step up for children who really need help.

Wendy Brown advises that if you are curious about being a foster parent, call the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Idaho Care Line at 208-926-2588 or by dialing 2-1-1. They can put you in touch with people who know about the program and foster families who can share their experiences.

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