Right now there are 4,326 children in Arkansas foster care. Why are these children coming into the foster care system?
DHS said primarily neglect and parental substance abuse are to blame, but one of our state supreme court judges is getting involved. For Justice Rhonda Wood, it's now a passion.
"It's partly societal, there's a breakdown of families, a breakdown of education," Wood said.
She said that there are too many factors that place a child in foster care to pin it down to a single cause.
"Sort of the world we live in and the family unit is breaking down," she said.
But Justice Wood wants to change that. Throughout her years on the bench, she's seen first-hand the impact of court decisions on families.
She said that, while adoption and foster care are important, it's critical that parents have the right tools to regain custody of their children if possible.
"That is a fundamental right -- to parent your child and that relationship is fundamental. So we have to figure out from a societal standpoint how to form that bond and give the parent the tools because the child -- I see it all the time -- if you take that parent away there is something fundamentally missing from that child," she said.
So, how do we provide those resources? Are they available in Arkansas?
"Until we can get enough foster homes that we can keep the school contacts, those teachers and friends and the church contacts in the community we aren't doing good enough," Wood said.
Wood said that it's not always that easy, though.
"It's awful it's a horrible decision, you don't know if you're making the right decision – you're traumatizing the child no matter what, whether you're leaving the child in the home or taking them out of the home," she said.
"So those are the decisions we live with and that we have to make sure we get them right really every time. We can't afford to get them wrong when you're dealing with children," she said.