HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Gándara Center hosted a foster care appreciation luncheon for Foster Care Awareness Month on Tuesday.

The center recognized foster families and professionals that help children and youth to find safe homes. According to the Gándara Center, their foster care program has put youth in temporary safe home environments for more than 30 years.

A National Health Statistics report by the CDC says in Fiscal Year 2017, more than 400,000 children and youth were in foster care in the United States.

Stephanie LaPlante was in foster care from age three to 18 and was in over 20 foster and group home placements. She says it’s important to have foster care, “Some kids don’t come from good homes where they are loved and treated the way that they should be treated as children. It’s good to have people like Jule in the system because they are amazing.”

“To be able to have people to count on that we can do that– whatever their circumstances may be it’s extremely important because that’s going to help them truly develop and grow in a way that they should be able to,” said Jade Rivera-McFarlin, Vice President of Development and Community Relations at the Gándara Center.

The center recognized one of their committed foster parents who will be retiring after 23 years. If you would like to become a foster parent, you can learn how to do so on the Gándara Center’s website.