WARD COUNTY, N.D. (KXNET) — According to the North Dakota Department of Human Services, nearly 2,000 children are living in foster care throughout the state.

But of that amount, only a small fraction have licensed foster parents.

Since COVID, the number of foster parents has dropped significantly in North Dakota and experts say the need for housing children in the system is greater than ever.

“The amount of foster homes is lower than what we would like to see it. There is always that need, always, always. And it seems like some things have occurred over the past few years where we have lost some foster families,” said Becky Edwards, a Social Worker and Recruiter for Nexus-PATH.

Foster parenting requires patience, flexibility and the ability to provide a stable family life during a time of crisis for a child in need.

It may not be easy, but Correen Jones a foster mom in Ward County says, making a difference in a child’s life is worth it.

Correen Jones, a foster mom in Ward County said, “Consider being that stable, consistent, loving home, that kids can come home to every day and know that there is structure, there’s safety and there is always going to be food on the table.”

There is a list of children throughout the state waiting for a foster family right now.

Through the pandemic and the current state of the economy, Edwards says many foster families have chosen to step back from fostering programs.

She said, “Whether it was your job, your health, your family’s health, there was lots of reason a family may choose not to foster anymore. So, I think just like other places, we’re struggling to try to get back to where we were before covid.”

Edwards hopes that more families will be open to learning about the fostering system and the needs that could be filled for the youth in North Dakota.

“The biggest thing we expect from our families is just opening up their hearts and their homes. And patience, understanding, working with the biological family, and the team of people so that the child and the family can meet their goals,” Edwards added.

According to the state, foster homes can have a maximum of six kids, but on average, there are two kids per foster family in North Dakota.

So the more foster parents the better to help care for these children.