Local father promotes need for foster parents in Rockingham County

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Justin Stewart says helping children in foster care has always been part of his life's mission.

"These children just need an advocate," Stewart said.

Stewart is an assistant training officer for Rockingham County Emergency Services.

He got involved helping children find safe, loving homes after a family tragedy of his own in 2011.

His daughter Lauren died from leukemia. She was just 11 years old.

"She battled it for just over three and a half weeks before she succumbed to leukemia and passed away," Stewart said.

After Lauren's death, Stewart and his wife Sarah decided to continue growing their family.

"We were just thinking what's our options,” he said. “Our passion was for children."

Since 2012, Stewart and his wife have become foster parents to three young girls. Two of whom, they've adopted.

“To see them grow, it's just a wonderful thing,” he said. “It pays you back more than you could ever ask for."

It’s a message Stewart is also sharing by becoming the face of Rockingham County's campaign to get more people to become foster parents.

"We knew that he would work with us on doing different things that would help the children," said Phyllis Cundiff, foster care supervisor.

Stewart speaks at public events and is being used in a local television ad promoting the campaign.

"I've spoke at church about it,” he said. “I've spoken to groups about it."

Rockingham County has about 150 children in foster care but only 40 foster parents.

The county has been trying to recruit more parents through social media and different events.

"Whether it's for temporary healing or for permanent placement, we want to see that be successful," Stewart said.

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