SALT LAKE CITY — Katie Crockett is a mom of two biological children, but if you ask her about her kids she'll count off another nine.
"These are the handprints of some of the kids I've had in my home," said Crockett pointing to a canvas hanging on a bedroom wall. "I try to make them feel like they belong here and they're a part of this family."
Her home is a licensed foster home.
"We want to make life as normal as possible for these kids," she said.
People and homes like the Crocketts are hard to come by lately. According to Utah Foster Care, there are 2,900 children living in the state foster care system. The number of licensed homes available only totals 1,300.
It's a constant struggle to recruit new families to help. "We have to find 500 new families every year just to replace the families that leave," said Mike Hamblin with Utah Foster Care.
Hamblin said the number of children needing placement has gone up another 200 since this time last year. In Utah and across the country, he is seeing a trend.
"A lot of what we're seeing is attributed to substance abuse by the parents," Hamblin said. Specifically, opioid abuse.
The goals of foster care is always to reunite children with their biological families. Foster care placements generally last about 12 months.
"We love helping the kids that need it and sending them home better people, and watching the parents develop more parenting skills," Crockett said.
The Crocketts plan to continue to open their home for years to come.
"We have just fell in love with foster care," Crockett said.
She's just hoping more people will consider falling in love with it too.
"I think the community needs to step up and be willing to open up their homes and hearts and give back to the community and help change lives," she said.
If you want to help, or just want some information on foster care, contact Utah Foster Care.