JEFFERSON CITY - Since 2008, the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association has been working to support the foster kids of mid-Missouri. Ten years later, it's still using programs like the 30 Days to Family and Extreme Recruitment to create positive impacts in the lives of these children.
"CMFCAA is an adoption resource center but also supports the foster community and any kind of relatives or guardians," said Sarah Bashore, supervisor for the 30 Days to family and ER Teams. "So we have support systems that kind of wrap around them and give them any resources they may need during the foster care process or even after they've fostered or adopted or became their guardians."
In the 30 Days to Family program, Bashore and her team work to identify a network of potential guardians for a child before they enter the foster care system in thirty days. That includes at least 80 immediate relatives, next-of-kin, teachers, religious leaders or anyone else that could be a potential caregivers for the child. In the Extreme Recruitment program, private investigators, recruiters, and social workers work to find a permanent home for the child in just a matter or weeks.
"It's a pretty big task but we are willing to take it on and a do what we can," Bashore said.
Bashore began working at CMFCAA after graduating college and has been ever since. Although it wasn't what she initially saw herself doing, it has grown to mean a lot to her.
"I think the reason I stay with it is that as a case manager I grew to love the kids that I worked with and saw that they deserve a family like any other child who comes into this world," Bashore said. "So I have a passion to make sure that every kid has a family and that every child has a place to call home that's loving and secure."
However, programs like these require money to fund it. Typically, organizations like CMFCAA receive federal funding from state given by the government through the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Payments program. Created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997, the program rewards states for improved performance in placing foster kids in permanent homes or guardianships each fiscal year.
"Adoption incentive funding is given to the state to continue support of adoptive families and make sure that we do the hard work and the good work of getting kids into permanency.
But according to the National Council for Adoption, shortfalls for the money began in 2011. In a letter to lawmakers the council said this:
"Until the sequestration law took effect in 2011, if states earned more than had been appropriated, appropriators made up the shortfall by increasing funding. Since 2011, however, appropriators haven’t made up the shortfall. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used funds from the current year’s appropriations to make the past year’s incentive payments. Over time, the incentive fund has fallen short by larger amounts. Last year, states earned about $55 million for adoptions and guardianship in fiscal year 2016, but HHS had only $5 million to award, using funds that would normally have been for 2017 placements. The expected appropriation for 2018 is $38 million, which would not allow full payments for 2016 and leaves no funds to reward increases in adoptions and guardianship in 2017."
Overall, states were still owed $50 million dollars in funds for 2016, money that without states risked having a potential loss of post-adoption/post guardian ship services similar to those CMFCAA provides.
Missouri was supposed to receive around $3 million dollars for their increased adoption efforts in 2016 but only received $320,000. DeAnna Alonso, founder of CMFCAA, along with FosterAdopt Connect in Springfield and the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, has been working in federal lawmakers to help identify how much Missouri had been doing in terms of adoption and how much the state was entitled to.
"We have built and designed programs to get kids into families quicker and to make sure that those families are stable," Alonso said. "We provide back to Missouri probably three to four times what Missouri invests in us."
Recently, it was announced that the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payment Fund has been included in the FY2018 appropriations bills. According to Alonso this is a win for foster kids across the country.
"Now, kids can continue to have supportive, safe families and refrain from staying in institutions or lingering in foster care," Alonso said. "The monies will continue to be allocated by the state to support kids who otherwise would not have a family and age out of care without permanency. Kids deserve families and all kids deserve to be cared for and loved."
With the funding no longer in limbo, Bashore says CMFCAA can continue providing support to Missouri's foster kids, something that means a lot to her personally.
"Last week I worked with one of the kids I have known for years now and she spoke about her forever family and what it means to her to have that love in her life," Bashore said. "You know, she entered care when she was six years old and she went through five foster homes before finding her adoptive home and it means a lot to me to hear about her talk about her forever family. And she uses love throughout the story. Where would she be without this adoptive mom? I think her story will stick with me for a long time."