CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The start of May brings the start of Foster Care Awareness month.
In South Carolina, the need for foster parents is critical.
Across the state and in the Lowcountry there are not enough foster homes for the kids who need them.
In South Carolina, officials with DSS said there are over 4,600 kids in foster care, and the state needs an additional 1,500 foster homes for them.
Vermell Whaley-Hamilton has been a foster parent in Charleston County for three years. In her time as a foster parent she's housed fifteen kids with the hope one day she can adopt.
"My husband and I have had fertility issues for four years," said Hamilton. "A friend of mine at work adopted a child out of foster care and never crossed my mind to even do it."
In Charleston County, officials with DSS said there are over 400 kids in foster care and only about 60 foster homes for them to go to.
"I would definitely say the need is 100% greater than it was last year this time. This has been a struggle since I've been employed with the agency," said Lakeshia Bryant-Seabrook with DSS. "I wouldn't say this is something that started last year. We've always been in a dire need for foster parents."
Seabrook said the need for more foster homes has become so dire because more often the cases have been getting more serious.
That's where Dee Norton plays a key role.
"Part of it is the fact that child abuse happens, and it's happening at a higher rate that our system can currently support," said Dee Norton CEO and Executive Director Carole Swiecicki.
If there aren't enough homes where the child lives that means they have to go somewhere in the state.
"They lose everything when we have to place them out of the area," said Seabrook.
Moving kids out of the area can only lead to a more negative childhood experience.
"The shortage of foster homes can exasperate the child's reactions to even the first traumatic event that led to them being placed in foster care," said Swiecicki.
When kids can't be placed in a foster home they're put into a group home where Seabrook said their level of achievement isn't as high and they're not in a family setting.
The question that some may ask is whose job is it to step up when these kids have nowhere to go.
"I feel that if parents or biological families are not able to care for their children it's the community's responsibility to step forward," said Seabrook.
Hamilton is stepping up to be that community for a child who needs it.
"No one asks to be in to this world and sometimes kids are fighting for necessities. I think every child born should have that opportunity to have necessities in life," said Hamilton.
Hamilton said it's that very reason her life feels more fulfilled and she feels her sense of purpose.