Bay County's Foster Child Population Draws Concerns

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PANAMA CITY - The number of foster children in Bay County might surprise you. There are almost twice as many here as there are in Leon County which is much larger.

Marcia Croom has fostered four children in the past year, two 3 year olds, a 4 year old, and a 9 month old baby.

"They come from all different kinds of situations and when you enter in your home to provide that structure and that love, you can see them feel safe and are able to learn and grow," said Marcia Croom, a foster parent. "I think that's the most rewarding."

Unfortunately there aren't more local people who feel the same way. According to Big Bend Community Care, of Bay County's 37,000 children, about 300 are foster kids.

Compare that to Leon County, with 54,000 children, and about 200 in foster care. Officials say they don't have any hard facts, just speculations.

"Maybe just the people in our area have been trained and know more about reporting those kinds of things," said Katie Zimpfer, Senior Operations Manager for Big Bend Community Based Care. "The other is we have a large population that come in and out."

Zimpfer says about 80 children are placed outside of the county because there aren't enough foster homes locally. Big Bend organizers are working to make the Bay County community more aware of the issue.

"If I can help one child to be in a better situation, it's worth it all and you know what, that's what keeps me going and that's what keeps me coming back," said Zimpfer.

"It is the hardest thing you can do, but it is also the most rewarding thing you can do is help another child feel safe and secure and have that childhood that they deserve," said Croom.

If you would like to foster a child, you can call 850-522-4485 ext. 8404 or log onto to get the process started.

You can also find out additional information on their Facebook page by searching Foster & Adopt On The Gulf Coast.