GREENVILLE, Pitt County - The number of children in our area in foster care has soared in the past few months.
More than ever there is a need for families like yours to give children in need loving homes. That was especially true for Sam Mercer. On March 23, 2017 he became part of the Mercer family. They've been fostering him since June 2015.
James and Brenda Mercer are one of 25 licensed foster homes in Pitt County. They've fostered 11 children since 2009.
"I just had the love for children," said Brenda Mercer. "I just chose adoption, not adoption but fostering children because I thought that was the greatest need."
It's a need that has dramatically spiked in Pitt County alone in recent years. The number of children in foster care has increased 58 percent since 2013.
"So we went from about 138 children to right now we're really close to 200 children," said Jan Elliott, Pitt County Social Services director.
Nationwide, between 2012-2015, the number of children in foster care went up eight percent.
"We're getting a lot more children coming from families where there's substance abuse issues, domestic violence is a big issue for us, sometimes both those things go together," Elliott said.
Many experts say the opioid crisis can explain the increase of children in foster care in recent years. Elliott said that in Pitt County, increased education about drug abuse and domestic violence can help explain the trend.
"I think we're more aware. I think folks probably report more than they used to," Elliott said.
Either way, Elliott said the solution is more families like the Mercers. The Mercers encourage anyone thinking about fostering to go for it.
"There are no perfect children, even our own. So what we want to do is just do the best we can," Mercer said.
Pitt County Social Services is always recruiting foster and adoptive parents. If you're thinking of opening up your home to a child in need, click here to learn more.