May 29, 2008

Foster Parents Providing Safe, Caring Homes For Local Children

The commitment of Missouri’s foster families was honored during the month of May as the state expressed its gratitude for the dedication to Missouri’s children by celebrating May as Foster Care Appreciation Month.

“Missouri is fortunate to have many wonderful families who unselfishly care for children in their time of great need,” said Governor Matt Blunt. “It is important that we take time this month to recognize their dedication as well as highlight the ongoing need for foster homes in the state.”

On any given day, there are more than 9,000 children in foster care needing a safe, loving home until they are reunited with their biological families or adopted. More than 3,000 Missouri families have answered the call to provide care for these children.

During the last recording period, the Children’s Division (CD) of the Missouri Department of Social Services reported 16 children in Scotland County were under the custody of the CD. Seven of the 16 were cared for during the period in foster homes, with one child placed in an adoptive home and the other eight in group homes, residential care or other facilities. The average age of those children was just under 12 years old.

During that same recording period four children, exited the custody of the Children’s Division, either returning to their homes or finding permanent placement. Two of those children had been in CD custody for two years or more.

The First Judicial Circuit also serves Clark and Schuyler counties. Schuyler County had 22 children in CD custody during the last recording period and Clark County had 31 children in the system.

As of March 31, there were 9,818 children in the custody of the Children’s Division in Missouri. Of those children, 4,614 of them were in the care of foster care providers. Relatives provided care for 2,750 of the children and 1,577 of the children needed a level of care that required placement in residential treatment facilities. Another 110 are in homes with families planning to adopt them.

The average age of children in foster care is just below 10 years. Their average stay in alternative care is over 27 months.

There are 3,226 licensed foster homes across the state of Missouri and another 3,056 licensed relative homes. The average age for a foster mother is 45 years and for a foster father is 46 years. However, the state’s oldest foster parent is 84 years old and the youngest is 22, just over the required age of 21.

Family Support teams work together to determine the most appropriate placement and goal for children in the custody of the Children’s Division. The teams are comprised of the child’s parents, foster/relative/kinship care provider, case manager, Juvenile Officer, and other community members involved with the family or child. In recent years, when it has been determined that a child cannot safely return home, the Children’s Division has emphasized placing children in foster care with relatives or adults known to the child such as neighbors.

Children’s Division Director Paula Neese said, “We cannot say enough about foster families, whether relatives or other willing families. Stepping up in a time of need to provide these children with a stable, loving home is an amazing investment in the child, the family and in the community.”

Persons wanting to provide placement for children in foster care must be licensed by the Children’s Division, said Shelley Curry, MSW, Circuit Manager for the 1st Judicial Circuit, Scotland County Children’s Division.

To find out more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent or to learn of other ways to help, call 1-800-554-2222.

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