About 1,200 kids in the heart of Illinois are looking for a place to call home. The adoption or foster care route can be confusing to potential parents.
Everyone we spoke with said the journey is worth every high and low.
Alyssa Emanuelson knew early that she wasn't going to have the traditional family.
"I had a miscarriage when I was in my mid-20's. Miscarriages run in my family on both sides so I knew it was going to be something that was going to be more difficult for me," explained Emanuelson. "As I approached 30, I knew I wanted a family. Fostering seemed like the next natural step."
After being placed into about 20 different foster homes by the age of six, Shayla was placed with Emanuelson.
"Shayla was legally free, meaning they had already terminated parental rights. She had already been legally free for two years before she got to my home," said Emanuelson.
The two ladies bonded and decided to become official family members two years ago when Shayla was 7 and a half.
"It was a decision made mutually. Shayla was asked by her case worker, her CASA, and myself if this was something she wanted to do," said Emanuelson.
Emanuelson started her family with a beautiful daughter but says their journey isn't always easy.
"She's been exposed to a lot more as a little kid than most of us have even in our 30's," said Emanuelson.
She adds they work through problems with age appropriate truths.
Foster care parent recruiter Christina Hite at Family Core said foster parents have to parent differently.
"Foster-parenting is like having hearts in two worlds at the same time. Your heart is sometimes fully in with the child, but also fully in for that family," Hite explained.
Hite said the most common concerns when it comes to fostering are about the court system and any potential fees.
There aren't fees when you chose foster to adoption.
Both women want to encourage people to open their hearts to an unconventional family.
"They're willing to put their heart on the line because they know these kids deserve a family," said Hite.
"I would tell people to be open to adopting kids that aren't babies or under two. If that's what they want to do just be prepared that the kids that are adopted do have other struggles that a kid you've had from birth doesn't necessarily have," said Emanuelson.
Emanuelson said she would like to see more support for foster parents and agencies in Illinois.