Washoe County offers unique way to find homes for kids in need
Gloria Torma and her husband have an ever-expanding family. They've fostered eight kids in the past five years, and they're currently fostering a 9-month-old boy.
"Our family just keeps growing; it grows sideways, it grows everywhere," Gloria Torma said. "The more families we have to provide family and stability to these kids, the better."
Torma fostered her now 3-year-old daughter, who she adopted a year and a half ago. She is one of the hundreds of foster care homes in Washoe County.
"It's really neat to be a part of a family's healing story," she said.
The county said they need more families like the Tormas.
"We've had an increase in the number of kids that have come into care, and they've been staying a little bit longer," said Alice LeDesma, the Children Services Division Director for the Washoe County Human Services Agency.
There are currently 933 kids in foster care. LeDesma said there are more kids in foster care over the past decade, especially children 7 years old and younger. The reasons are often complex.
"I think people are struggling in our community: substance abuse, poverty, homelessness. I think we are resource-taxed, and there's not as many services out there as people need," LeDesma said.
But the Human Services Agency has a unique plan to find more foster homes, get more kids adopted and get more adults involved. The agency teamed up with the University of Nevada, Reno about four years ago through a program called "Have a Heart."
"There's a lot of people that we touch, the demographic is great," said LeDesma. "There's not only college kids who are enthusiastic about giving back to our community through volunteerism, but they are very enthusiastic about supporting their school. But there's also a demographic of people go to football games, an older generation of empty nesters."
Have a Heart focuses on getting people involved however they can -- through a donation, a meal for a foster family or mentoring a child. Human Services hopes any involvement will eventually lead to fostering or adoption.
Torma says fostering can have a huge payoff for everyone.
"Here's that small picture, the redemption of a family, but in the big picture what does our community look like when we come together and we step up and we all do what we can do with our time, treasure and talent to influence that next generation being a better generation?" Torma said.