BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) According to the National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) in Baton Rouge, the holiday season normally brings an increase in child abuse and neglect cases.

Licensing Coordinator, Christian Kelly, said, “Children are at home more, because they are out of school for the holidays, where family members and trusted people outside the family are the perpetrators of abuse.”

For many families, finances tighten around the holidays, which adds to the stress of caregivers. Another major factor in child abuse cases is the increasing likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse.

Child advocates believe the holidays will only add to the growing number of children in the foster care system in Louisiana. About 4,000 children are in need of a home, with teenagers and sibling groups experiencing the most significant need.

Experts said there are more youths in need of placements than there are available homes.

For three years, Daniel and Chelsea of Livingston Parish had been trying to have a baby but encountered infertility issues. They started researching adoptions and learned about teenagers in group homes, who needed therapeutic foster care services.

“It was terrifying at first, but it has been so rewarding,” said Chelsea. “At first, we wanted to start out with one kid, and dip our toes into parenthood, but we found out the child had a sibling, and we made the decision that they need to stay together. So, the brother and sister have been in our home since 2020. The children are 13 and 14 years old.”

NYAP is trying to recruit more parents to foster older children. One of the biggest fears people have relates to teenagers battling potential behavioral issues.

Daniel said, “We’ve only had to correct the typical behavioral issues just like any teenagers. No different than a normal teenage kids that we’re having to correct. They fight like brother and sister. Sometimes, they want to be around each other and sometimes far, far away.”

“Fear is what I would expect any person to have. That fear is normal. We thought about those same things, because these aren’t kids that we raised as a child. They already had their own mindset. But we really got lucky with these two. They are really great kids,” said Chelsea. “You are going to run into bumps along the road, but it is well worth it in the end. You have a ton of resources, of people backing you up, and helping you raise these kids as well.”

The couple says social workers at the Department of Children and Family Services have been a major source of support when it comes to providing resources for medical and mental health care.

Chelsea said, “I have no problem texting our case worker. She responds to me in an hour. Anything from a behavioral situation to a medical issue, she’s always there for me.”

“We’re going to be with you every step of the way. We’re going to be with you 24/7. We’re going to hold your hand. We are going to work this out with whatever you need,” said Robin Guillmette, NYAP Program Director.

For more information about adoption, click here.