For The Children in Missouri
The Role of Foster Care and Adoption in the Show Me State
(St. Charles, MO) – There are about 10,000 children in foster care in Missouri right now.
Think about that for a moment.
That’s the staggering number reported by Joanne Shelton from The Adoption Exchange, which works to find homes for children “in the system” – both foster homes and permanent, adoptive ones. One challenge to that mission is the fact that not enough homes are opening up for these children.
“There is a really large need for foster homes.” Shelton explains, “Not everybody is cut out to be an adoptive parent. But anybody over the age of 21 who just has the heart to help our children in that in-between state, from the time they enter foster care to either the time that they return back to their biological parents, return back to some family members or are, indeed, placed into an adoptive home, those are people we are definitely looking for.”
Foster parents could be signing up for as little as a two-day stay by a child or up to two years. There’s a small monthly stipend and the children are covered by the state’s Medicaid system. State funds also subsidize basic needs like diapers, clothes, food and school supplies but it’s still not an easy job.
Children generally enter the foster care system because of physical or sexual abuse or because of neglect.
That sounds like a tall order to deal with but Shelton reminds us that training programs are provided to help foster parents prepare to help the children with whom they work.
Resources are also offered after a foster placement, so foster parents are able to get help during a child’s stay in their home as well.
You won’t get rich by being a foster parent but you are rewarded, according to Shelton. “The benefit is knowing that they provided a loving and safe environment that that child didn’t have at one time. So, the benefits are purely in their heart.”
Around 15% of the children in foster care in Missouri at any time are available for adoption because the biological parents’ rights have been terminated. In addition to that, others are available for adoption when biological parents choose to give up their parental rights in hopes of finding a better home for their children.
Those who are considering adoption have choices, including the choice of adopting a child from Missouri or even adopting from another country. The process and the costs vary depending on which route you take.
“When you’re looking at an adoption from foster care, most of those expenses are going to be taken care of for you. You don’t have to pay any agency fees…you, frequently, can get subsidies to help you with the expenses related to the adoption of the child.
“And, you also are eligible for tax credits so that taking a child from foster care and into your home in an adoptive plan is not an expensive proposition in and of itself.”
The bottom line for thousands of children in Missouri is that homes are needed with open doors on the front and open hearts inside.
Whether the possibility of foster parenting or adoption is one your mind, the first step is to ask questions and learn about the challenges and the rewards, the costs and the resources available. Scheurer points to studies that show it often takes a family two years from the time they decide to learn about adoption to the time they begin the formal process.
Both Shelton and Scheurer recommend learning as much as possible up front in order to make a plan that will allow everyone to focus on the child instead of the finance, paperwork and process.
On the web:
The Adoption Exchange: www.AdoptEx.org (also: 800.554.2222)
Lutheran Family & Children’s Services of MO: www.LFCSMO.org