Over the course of more than a decade as foster parents, Andra and Raymond Logan Jr. have welcomed more than 15 children into their home. With each new face, Andra said, not only did her family grow but so did her confidence in her purpose.

“I’m telling you, it’s like a magnet, you know. They pull to me and I pull to them. It’s crazy how it is,” she said. “They just need some love, somebody to be compassionate and really understanding. You need to be patient. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and different situations. We just lead by example and let them see what we do in the home and let them feel safe.”

Andra said that one of the first hurdles for her when becoming a foster parent was learning to accept the idea that the children she was opening her arms and her home to would eventually move on and either return to their birth parents or start their independent lives.

“That’s the part that hurts so much. At first, that was my main problem,” she said. “They become your own even if you know going in that it’s going to be temporary.”

But the Logans learned quickly that the bonds formed with their children are no less significant because they are temporary, and in fact they don’t always have to be temporary. Andra said they adopted one of their foster children early on, and they’re now in the process of adopting another.

The Logans are foster parents with an agency called CTS Health, which is based in Gastonia and has foster parents in counties across western North Carolina. Logan said that there is a strong network of parents who rely on each other for support and advice, and in speaking with them she has seen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families and the need for more parents to offer their time to help children.

Most referrals to social services agencies come through schools, and with children not on campus regularly, those connections have weakened. The other stresses that the pandemic has caused – parents losing their jobs, health risks or relapses into disruptive behaviors and addiction – are having a direct impact on children, Andra said.

“I wish many more families would open up their heart and just let them in,” she said. “In Caldwell County, we need a whole lot of foster parents. You can always use a little more help.”

CTS Health Licensing Supervisor Julie Hill, who helps recruit, train and assist foster parents like the Logans, said that the pandemic has put a strain on the resources available in Caldwell County. Normally her agency might receive five or seven referrals a day, an already troublingly high number, now it receives as many as 10 in a day.

Fewer than one-quarter of CTS's 95 foster homes are in Caldwell County – many that Hill works with are in Gaston or Mecklenburg County – and Hill said the need for local foster parents in Caldwell has never been greater.

“We get calls all the way from Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Union, Cabarrus, but we don’t have that many parents out that way. If we get a call from Caldwell County DSS, we might only have an opening for that kid in Mecklenburg County,” she said.

This creates another layer of stress and trauma for the children.

“They’re being removed not only from their homes but from their community, their schools,” Hill said. “We’re trying to get these kids to have some type of normalcy,” but that’s hard when the solution involves changing so many fundamental aspects of their lives.

Hill said that families like the Logans are critical, and she wants people to understand that the pathway to becoming a foster parent isn’t as difficult as it may seem from the outside. Individuals from all walks of life are able to help.

“You don’t have to own your home. We have single female, single male, same-sex couples, you name it,” she said. “The youngest parent we have is maybe 30, and we also have a parent who is 76.”

Agencies like CTS train foster parents and also provide guidance and support, including financial support for the families, ongoing training at home and help with logistical hurdles.

Hill said that many foster parents find that, like the Logans, the most difficult part is that one day they will have to say goodbye to the children they care for. But they typically find that the benefits are worth it, she said, and parting with foster children does not mean the end of the relationship.

“If the plan is reunification (with their birth parents), we have many foster parents who maintain that relationship with the children afterwards,” she said, and there are families like the Logans who are even able to adopt their foster children. But “the sadness that these parents might face with a child leaving is nothing compared to what they have given these children.”

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.