There are nearly half a million children in foster care in the United States and finding stable homes for each one remains a challenge.

In the Miami Valley, one agency is searching to find the best home for a small portion of that population.

“Our homes fill up very quickly,” says Tiffany Bailey, a foster parent recruiter for SAFY in Dayton. She works with officials in Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Preble, Warren and Butler counties to help foster children find homes. “We’re looking for more homes and homes that are willing to work with a little bit of everything.”

For 30 years, Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth, a national child welfare and family service provider, has helped provide an environment that positively impacts youths and their families.

The nonprofit, started in 1984 in Delphos, Ohio, is now located in eight states with 11 branches in Ohio alone. In 2013, SAFY’s early interventions, prevention services and out-of-home placement foster care provided permanency, safety and well-being to 12,384 children and families.

Without a home, many foster children are left in group and halfway homes. The trauma from bouncing around without any firm homestead weighs heavily on children of all ages. It’s especially burdensome for teenagers who’ve become accustomed to the transition.

Bailey says the perception of emotionally unstable foster teenagers makes it difficult for these 13- and 14-year-olds to find a home.

“A lot of [teenagers] in foster care have moved from home to home, which exacerbates the trauma and they don’t trust the foster parents right away,” says Bailey.

However, she cites several success stories where foster parents were able to make a tremendous impact on teenagers’ lives.

“There was one girl who told me she got to celebrate her first Christmas when she was 13 years old,” says Bailey. “It was the first time she was able to have a tree with presents under them. She was so excited.”

As a single mother of three, Bailey understands the predicament many families are in, but the positive rewards for helping a foster child outweigh any unease.

“Just being able to see them open up and look toward the future, and know that that person will be there, makes a huge difference,” says Bailey.

Becoming a foster parent doesn’t require a specific income, home ownership or having a spouse. Bailey says everyone’s case is slightly different and requirements vary for each foster applicant.

“We have to turn kids away everyday and almost every day we’re trying to find as many suitable homes as possible,” says Bailey.

For more information on becoming a foster parent in the Miami Valley, visit safy.org or call 937-853-9061.