Alachua County kids who need fostering outnumber homes 3-to-1 

Kendall Grayson and her daughter, Claire.
Kendall Grayson and her daughter, Claire.
Courtesy of Kendall Grayson

Kendall Grayson began her first Mother’s Day this year from the stage of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville.  

As she stood between four other families committing before the congregation on Dedication Sunday to raise their children in the faith, she smiled down at her 19-month-old daughter Claire wrapped in her arms and dangling pink cowgirl boots in the air.  

Grayson, 29, remembered when a moment like this before fostering and adopting Claire was only a prayer. 

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“It just felt like she’s always been a part of my life,” Grayson said. “I imagine biological parents feel the same way the moment that they meet their child after delivery. I feel like I’ve had that same feeling with her.” 

Grayson planned to marry first before thinking about opening her family to foster children. She didn’t even know it was possible to foster as a single parent. But after local agencies visited Westside a few years ago for National Foster Care Month, stories shared about single foster parent experiences changed Grayson’s mind.  

After 11 months of fostering Claire, Grayson signed her adoption papers in December 2023. 

“If you’re thinking, ‘This is going to be too hard,’ ‘I don’t think I could get attached to a child,’ that’s exactly what the child needs,” Grayson said. “They need that safe love. They need that security that we can offer them [and] someone who’s going to care about them.” 

Raising awareness of foster care needs and acknowledging those like Grayson who help was the goal when President Ronald Reagan designated May as National Foster Care Month in 1988. Gainesville-based foster agency Partnership for Strong Families (PSF) aims to champion this mission of awareness throughout May and the entire year. 

PSF outreach recruitment specialist Chelsea Bowlin said raising awareness about foster care is critical for inspiring and equipping more people to help, whether that’s through fostering children themselves, or volunteering time and donating money to help others who are fostering. 

“When I talk to them and explain it, you can see people visibly, emotionally move and want to help,” Bowlin said. “Once they’re exposed to the issue, or once they meet somebody who’s a foster parent, it becomes easier to say yes.” 

According to PSF, 227 children in Alachua County need foster care homes, but only 62 homes are available. Alachua is the most populated county of the 13 reached by PSF, leading to a higher number of children in foster care.  

Some rural counties have higher deficits of children to available homes, and sibling groups tend to be separated to find placements.  

Gainesville Partnership for Strong Families staff participating in Wear Blue Day on May 7 for National Foster Care Month.
Courtesy of Partnership for Strong Families Gainesville Partnership for Strong Families staff participating in Wear Blue Day on May 7 for National Foster Care Month.

“When there are not enough foster homes in a county, children are often placed far from their original homes,” said PSF CEO Ginger Griffeth in a Facebook post. “This displacement can exacerbate their trauma and present additional challenges. We desperately need more individuals to step forward and offer foster homes to meet this pressing demand.” 

Bowlin recognizes that committing to foster a child through difficult circumstances for an unknown amount of time is daunting. Some children carry complex medical and behavioral needs that are not exclusive to, but can be heightened, in foster environments.  

PSF and other community organizations work to connect people and families who do foster with the resources and training they need. Children in foster care are also covered by Medicaid, and the parents receive a monthly subsidy to financially provide for the children in their care. 

For the months Grayson spent fostering Claire as a single parent, she also found a community of support through her church. Starting with only a crib at the beginning, her church provided all the bottles, strollers, car seats, diapers, clothes, and toys she needed. Some women have already offered to help Grayson care for and do Claire’s curly African American hair when she’s older. 

“Not a single time have I felt alone in the process,” Grayson said. “I don’t think I could have done it by myself.”  

As much joy as Grayson felt dedicating her new daughter at church this Mother’s Day, she also felt a deep sadness for the realities of foster care. Claire’s biological mother would be spending the day without her daughter.  

“The heartbreak that you feel, not only for your child in the placements that you have, but also just for the biological family as well, is also a hard part of the process,” Grayson said.  

The goal of every foster placement is permanency. If reunifying the child with their biological parents isn’t possible within 11 to 13 months, the child’s case is opened for adoption. Reunification with the biological parents is successful for only about one in three cases, Bowlin estimated. 

One of the largest reasons children are removed from their homes today is substance abuse. Bowlin said investing in programs and organizations helping to proactively combat these issues parents face can help prevent children from entering foster care in the first place.  

“The biological parents aren’t necessarily bad people,” Bowlin said. “They are regular people who have had unfortunate circumstances either brought upon them or have made mistakes in their lives. They are just as heartbroken a lot of the time as their own children that they aren’t able to safely care for them at this point in time.” 

To start the process of fostering a child, or to learn more about how to help foster families, Bowlin encourages people to reach out to PSF at or 352-244-1615.  

The agency hosts donation drives throughout the year and a back-to-school drive is already happening now through July 12. People can also volunteer as Guardian ad Litems to advocate for the children in court. 

Ways to help include: 

  • Foster children (there is a large need to take in sibling groups) 
  • Donate money, food or goods 
  • Volunteer at anti-substance abuse or addiction organizations 
  • Host PSF to speak 

Grayson said no matter the level of commitment people have to help foster children and families, anybody can do something. It just takes patience.  

“Nothing moves quickly, it’s not in your control,” she said. “But the only thing you can control is how much you love and care for the child in your home.” 

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Thank you for covering this! What an important cause deserving of our attention.


I wish every child could have a loving, caring, safe home. That is the least that every child deserves.