Advocates: new community funds tell foster kids 'I believe in you'

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JEFFERSON CITY - Grant money pouring into Jefferson City-based nonprofits is investing in the future of children in foster care. The Community Foundation of Central Missouri announced a new Impact Grant to help expand social services.

Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association received $5,000 from the first Impact Grant. The money is designated for CMFCAA’s Transitions program. The program pairs mentors with older youth aging out of the foster care system. Chief Program Officer Sarah Bashore said Transitions allows kids to develop connections outside of residential treatment facilities.

“These mentors are not paid. They are volunteers,” Bashore said. “They have a heart in this, whereas a treatment facility, they are paid staff and the staff come in and out so they don’t get attached.”

The program has 13 mentor pairs. CMFCAA has recently seen a 20 percent increase in applications for the Transitions program.

Before the Impact Grant, students in the Transitions program raised funds for the mentor program themselves. One of the fundraising activities the foster children organized was cleaning up parking lots the University of Missouri campus after a football game. Program Supervisor Jennifer Perkins said the grant money will help CMFCAA create partnerships within the community to expand the program.

“This money equals success for these kids,” Perkins said. “Being able to invest in these kids says ‘I believe in you.’”

The Community Foundation of Central Missouri works across 10 counties and has provided more than $1.1 million in grants in the past year.

Another recent grant recipient is Capital City Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA is a volunteer-based organization that serves children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Capital City CASA will use the $1,000 grant to purchase luggage for children who do not have any.

“It’s hard when you see children having to pack up into trash bags,” said executive director Gina Clement. “You and I take our trash out in a trash bag, so that sends a very clear message to the children that they are disposable.”

Clement said the goal is to provide all children in foster care in Cole County, not only those working with a CASA advocate.

“It’s not a big part of the emotional burden, but we’re hoping having something that belongs to them and people can’t take it away and it goes with them when they travel, we hope that will ease a little bit of the burden,” Clement said.

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