By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of children in Illinois are in need of warm, loving homes as the pandemic has placed a big strain on families.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports during this holiday season, a long time Chicago non-profit group is looking for volunteers with big hearts.

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Sandra Minter calls herself a motherly person, and with her four adult children now on their own she wondered: should she take on another parental challenge?

“My thought first of all was fear and fear and that, you know, I’m hoping I can be everything the child needs,” she said of the needs of a foster child. 

In August, despite that hesitation, Minter brought an 8-year-old girl into her home. She immediately saw the adjustment would take time.

“She was afraid, she cried a lot. She slept a lot. I saw depression; she was depressed,” she said. 

Minter says she showered her daughter — that’s what she calls her, her ‘daughter’ — with attention and affection.

“It’s like i’m her mom. She hugs me. She kisses me. She is like, I’m her mom,” Minter said. “It’s very rewarding.”

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“She’s one of our rock star parents,” said Jamal Malone, CEO of the Ada S. McKinley Community Services, a nonprofit agency.

It is a reward that awaits others willing to join Minter as foster parents, says Malone.

Malone said there has been a 33% increase in the number of Chicago area children who need foster care, as the pandemic creates an enormous strain on families and on group homes and makes it harder to find foster parents.

“Family members and extended family members that would have normally been able to help are having many, many difficulties themselves, just because of COVID-19,” said Malone. 

Ada S. McKinley Community Services is making a big push this holiday season to recruit foster parents. It’s well worth it, Minter says.

“It’s been the best thing I could have ever done. It’s given me life,” she said. 

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The Department of Children and Family Services’ rules require Minter to keep her daughter’s identity confidential. Ada S. McKinley can help you become a foster parent and offers a number of services for foster parents and children alike. Find more information here.