South Carolina is in critical need of foster parents. Currently there are more than 4,000 children around the state in the foster care program.

That number nearly doubled from last year, when 2,600 children needed a good home. South Carolina Mentor works alongside the Department of Social Services to help pair children with foster families.

"That gives them an opportunity at a better life,” says Shani Scott, family development director for SC Mentor. “That child had no choice in the hand they were dealt, but if someone can come in and make a difference in your life, then that's very important."

Adults can become foster parents at the age of 21 and can be single or married. That age may be shocking to most, but for Curtis Bates, he was familiar with the program.

"I've been around foster care for most of my life,” says Bates. “My mom’s been a foster parent since I was 11.”

So, it didn't come as a surprise when Bates became a licensed foster parent through the SC Mentor program on his 26th birthday. Three years later, he's still helping kids in need.

"I'm an educator as well, so I'm an educator who goes above and beyond,” says Bates.

His current foster son is 9-years-old. However, he says his first foster child was a teenager. He says his training through the mentor program prepared him for foster parenting.

"It was mind blowing at first and when I got him in, they left us at the house and we were just sitting and staring at each other and I asked 'what do you like to eat?' I feel like if I feed you then you're going to trust me."

It's that trust that can help a child feel safe after being taken from a difficult situation.

"I feel like we're all put on this earth to serve a purpose,” says Bates. “I feel like if you're not helping somebody, then you're not really serving your purpose.”

The SC Mentor program refers to their foster parents as mentors because of the impact they can have on the children. If you are interested in being a foster program, click on the link here.