Lawmakers discuss changes to help foster care kids

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COLUMBIA - Lawmakers, children's services experts and community leaders met Monday afternoon to hear from former foster care kids.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R) and California Rep. Karen Bass (D) hosted a Congressional Listening Tour in Columbia to get feedback on how members of Congress can help improve Missouri's child welfare system.

Rachel Smith-Lohmann was one of three former foster care kids who shared her story. Smith-Lohman stayed in three different foster homes before being adopted and said she considers herself lucky.

Smith-Lohmann said communication was the biggest obstacle she faced during her time in foster care.

"Right after I was placed in foster care I turned thirteen and I was expecting a letter from my mom. It never came and I was waiting, and I was waiting, and I was asking my case worker if she'd gotten anything because it would have come through her. She said she didn't have anything. Seven months later, after my birthday, the case worker gave me a letter post marked from June from my mom. She said she had forgotten,"  Smith-Lohmann. "I thought my mom didn't love me anymore but it turns out it was a miscommunication."

Smith-Lohmann said she thinks her experience is just one example of problems in communication foster children go through.

While each case is different Hartzler said lawmakers will do the best they can.

"One of the issues that was brought up today is how children lose their Medicaid funding as they cross state lines for placement with a relative. Perhaps that's something that we can look at," Hartzler said.

Bass also said she plans to consider feedback from the meeting to change policies for foster kids.

"I'm looking forward to sitting down with Representative Karen Bass who came here today once we get back to DC to look at specific legislative proposals that we can put forth to help our foster youth," Hartzler said.