LICKING COUNTY, Ohio — The number of children in need of a safe and loving home in Ohio has increased during the pandemic, according to advocates.
President and CEO of the Buckeye Ranch Vickie Thompson-Sandy said Ohio has 2,800 children legally free for adoption, who do not have a family identified.
"Clearly, there is a need for safe and loving foster homes and adoptive homes for kids across Ohio," Thompson-Sandy said. We are looking for families to take that leap of faith, to open their home to kids, and if kids can't go home to say, 'Of course, they don't have to leave. This can be their forever family.'"
Dave and Trisha Welsch, a couple from Licking County, recently adopted two brothers to add to their family.
"We, for a long time, had in the back of our minds that we were interested in international adoption. That was something we prayed about and considered. Really, we just didn't know anything about fostering," Dave Welsch said.
Trisha added, "Our eyes were just so opened. We had no idea. Our hearts just broke knowing about the needs in our own direct community, let alone the state of Ohio."
After taking classes through Buckeye Ranch, the Welsch's started fostering biological brothers Jevonte, 9, and Hakeem, 5, in Dec. 2019.
Then, on Oct. 27, the couple adopted the pair - exactly four years to the date that they entered the foster care system.
"They are our sons. We cannot imagine life without them," Trisha said. "Knowing that they're forever ours, is the best gift we could've asked for [on] Christmas."
While Dave and Trisha admit having six children can be "crazy" at times, they said the concerns and hesitations they had about fostering and adoption haven't been an issue.
"A lot of those fears that you go into it with, you find out that's not really reality. At the end of the day, it's just providing a stable, loving home for kids that need it," Dave said.
The couple credited support from friends and family as well as the pandemic with helping them take this step.
"What has really been a blessing in disguise is the pandemic and COVID-19," Trisha said. "What would've taken probably a lot longer as far as building trust and security, being home together all the time (especially in March and April) kind of accelerated that."
Thompson-Sandy said if families are interested in learning more about fostering and adoption, they can visit their website to learn how to take the next steps. There you will find educational resources, a list of FAQs, and how to sign up for the foster care and parenting program.
"Every kid deserves a safe and loving home, even if it wasn't the home they were born into," Thompson-Sandy said. "This is a time for people to just step [up] and think about how they can help their community be healthier by just helping one child...or a brother or sister."
Thanks to a donation, the Buckeye Ranch said it is in a better position to help the children who need it.
"I'm very grateful to the Crane Family and to the Crane Group, who invested in our work. Over the next five years, they are investing over a million dollars in our organization so that we can do nothing but recruit, train, and license foster families."
To learn more about fostering and adoption in Ohio, click here.