PREBLE COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) — The need for foster families right now is great, but it can be a challenging road.

One group in Preble County is working to provide support to foster families through those challenges and encourage them to continue fostering. That support is especially needed in Ohio’s rural counties, including Preble County.

“Here in Preble County, 73 percent of our paid placements were outside of the county,” said Mary Warrick. “So there’s a lot in Dayton or Springfield or Cincinnati.”

Mary Warrick has spent years working with foster children through Preble County’s Special Advocate Program.

She’s seen the impact those placements far from home can have on kids.

“It’s an extra traumatic event for the kids,” Warrick said. “So not only now have they been removed from their parents. But they’ve been removed from their school from their community.”

That’s why Warrick is spearheading “Grow in Grace,” a family advocacy ministry that creates care teams within churches like Salem Lutheran in West Alexandria.

“They’re teams of four to eight people within the church that will wrap around support for either a foster family or a kinship family,” Warrick said. “Which would be grandma, aunt, or uncle of kids who unfortunately had to be removed from their parents.”

The care teams offer foster families everything from meals to school supplies and clothes.

“50 percent of foster families will quit within the first year of fostering,” Warrick said. “That’s a national statistic. But they have found 90 percent will continue to foster if they receive some type of support.”

That support helps keep foster homes open to kids who desperately need them, and keeps those kids closer to home.

“The churches have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a very practical way,” Warrick said. “But then also just kind of an encouragement and support so we can be salt and light in these difficult situations.”

Grow in Grace is looking for more churches and organizations to take part in this program and help form these care communities.

If you’d like to help support foster families, or if you’re a foster family in Preble County that’s in need of support, you can reach out to Mary at 937-839-2333 or maryewarrick@gmail.com.