Carbondale shop owned by foster parents helping other foster families

CARBONDALE, IL — Hundreds of kids in our area don’t have a home to go to. A foster family shortage in Illinois is making it hard to place kids in loving homes. The newest study from the Children Bureau says there are more than 430,000 children in foster care every year.

Fostering children has become a passion for Christine O’Dell and her husband. Over the past 9 years, they’ve fostered 12 kids. “It’s not an easy journey but it’s worth it,” she said.

Lutheran Social Services covers the southern 14 counties in Illinois. Linda Reiss and Cheryl Smith said right now there are 300 kids waiting to be placed in homes. They said that’s an increase, and there are several reason for that uptick.

“I believe a lot of it has to do with the drug population — the opioids. There are truly addicted families that are just not able to care for their families,” said Reiss.

“The issues, too, are people don’t think that it’s doable for them. They might think ‘I don’t have the right house. I don’t have the right family. I don’t have the right job,'” said Smith.

O’Dell said sometimes a foster parent may only be given 24 hours notice before the next foster child arrives. To ease the stress, the O’Dells opened a resource center in the back of their retail shop, Two Bugs and a Bean, that has diapers, clothes and other things a child might need. It’s in partnership with the Foster Family Resource Center of Southern Illinois.

“Sometimes they’ve come straight from the hospital with a partial bag of diapers and just some formula,” said O’Dell.

O’Dell and her husband have adopted two of their foster children and are in the process of adopting a third. Reiss said all children deserve a happily ever after.

“It’s just such a reward to know that you took a child and were able to improve their life,” said Reiss.

“They’ve brought so much joy into our lives,” said O’Dell. And it’s all because she took a chance.

The Foster Family Resource Center of Southern Illinois is a nonprofit organization. Clothing and supplies are free to foster parents. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, call 618-997-9196.