SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) — Oesterlen Services for Youth has been helping children in the Miami Valley for more than a century, but their needs increase every year.

“We are a social services agency, we offer behavioral health and mental health treatment,” Holly Brennan, the director of development at Oesterlen, said.

Their foster care program continues to grow, with more than 70 requests for placement within the last week. Alexis Nixon, the foster parent recruitment specialist, said those requests are only going to increase when school starts.

“Once kids go back to school, we will start seeing an increase because teachers are the number one mandated reporter. And so we see a lot of kids who have not been seen all summer, and we’ll see those signs of abuse as school starts back up,” Nixon explained.

Nixon said they are looking for more people to open up their homes to help with this expected increase in foster children.

“They just need somebody to kind of lead them in the right direction, teach them how to drive, teach them how to get a job, that type of thing. So it’s really just caring for these kids to the extent that a parent would,” Nixon said.

She said they specialize in treatment level homes for kids and teens with behavioral issues, and they also offer training and resources to help parents during this process.

“You don’t have to open your home to every kid because not every kid is going to work in your home and you’re not going to work for every kid,” Nixon said.

Ken and Maribeth Holycross are foster parents and they stay busy with their eight children.

“Four of our kids have special needs. So watching our typical children interact with our special needs kids and vice versa, and just what they bring out in each other is really cool,” Maribeth Holycross said.

They foster children through Oesterlen, and they said they cannot imagine their lives any other way.

“All of our kids are all different and they all come from different backgrounds, but it’s a really unique opportunity to hopefully have some type of impact on their life and change their generation,” Ken Holycross said.

Kelly Duncan and her husband also foster children through Oesterlen. They saw a need for foster parents in their community and wanted to get involved.

“Whether that meant permanent placement for kids or just a season of their life when they needed us. We wanted to step in that gap,” Duncan explained.

Karen Henry said becoming a foster parent was one of the best decisions of her life, and she wants to help other people take that next step.

“Giving them an opportunity to succeed in life. Some take that opportunity. Some don’t. Some are more slow to bond with you than others. But once they do, that’s where the reward comes in,” Henry said.

While there will always be challenges, Duncan said the joy they feel outweighs the rest. They all hope they can inspire others to step up in their communities and help children who need a loving home.

“Often people think, ‘oh, it takes like this really special person to do foster care.’ And that’s not true. We’re just parents like any other parent. Often, we don’t know the next step, just like parenting, it’s like a whole new territory. And those kids just need someone to step up and be there for them,” Duncan said.

To learn more about Oesterlen and becoming a foster parent, click here or call (937)-399-6101.