New foster care program opens in Columbia 6

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COLUMBIA - Missouri has a shortage of families in the foster care system, but one organization is making efforts to close the gap.

Coyote Hill hosted a ribbon cutting to kick off its new foster care program in Columbia. According to chief development officer, Kari Hopkins, the program will provide support and training to foster parents like never before in the mid-Missouri area.

Hopkins said the program matters to the community because Boone County Children's Division currently doesn't have a licensing worker. Since the position is empty, individuals who have wanted to become foster parents, have had to use organizations like Coyote Hill.

Coyote Hill will provide care for foster children, mentorship for biological families when they regain custody, and support for foster parents.

The foster care services coordinator, Aubrey Ash, who is also a foster parent herself, said she is hopeful for the future of foster care in mid-Missouri.

"We want to make foster care different so that people want to come into it. We want to change the retention rate of foster families. We want to keep them around," Ash said. "We want to do things like make it so that children don't bounce from home to home, so we want to lessen the number of placements. We just really want to pour into these families."

Ash has adopted five children through foster care and admits that having more support would've been nice. She said the most common reason foster families are lost is because of lack of support.

"People say all the time 'I don't want to do that- I can't do it because I don't want to get attached," Ash said. "And someone really wise told me one time that if children come into your home and you love them and you pour into them and they leave, that is a heartbreak and its grief that you have to go through, but she said I would rather take on that heartbreak myself than have a child take on the heartbreak of having to stay in an unsafe home."

Foster parenting classes are starting in January, February, and April and are open for enrollment now.

To find out more about Coyote Hill and their services, check out their website.