Number of foster children in Missouri on the rise

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JEFFERSON CITY - More children in the state of Missouri are in foster homes than ever before. 

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, the number of foster kids in Missouri rose from 11,257 to 12,104 from 2013 to 2014. That number has since risen to 13,050 children, according to the Central Missouri Foster Care & Adoption Association

Amy Martin, who works as the adoption program manager for The Adoption Exchange, said foster children are affected mentally by not having consistent families.

"It's always traumatic for a child to have to leave their home," Martin said.

The executive director of the Foster Care and Adoption Association, Deanna Alonso, said a big reason the number of foster children has risen is due to a decline in adoptions. 

"Missouri has quite a few kids in care, but not enough homes," Alonso said.

Foster parent Rachelle Gilbert said there needs to be more families willing to take in foster children.

"We need more people who will step up and say 'I'm willing to open up my heart and open up my home to a child who needs me whether it's a child who needs me for a week or a child that needs me forever,'" Gilbert said. 

Groups like the Foster Care and Adoption Association are ramping up efforts to match foster children with foster families with programs such as "30 Days To Family," which helps search for relatives to take the child, and "Extreme Recruitment," which tries to find families for hard-to-place children within 20 weeks.  Both were just introduced to mid-Missouri in May 2016. 

"Those kind of programs are good and needed because it's really important for foster kids, who are coming in, to find permanency as quickly as they can," Gilbert said.

She said, "The sooner we can find permanency for these kids, the better for their well-being for sure."

Alonso said she wants to foster children who remain in the system to be treated with care.

"These kids are just searching for hope. From no fault of their own did they land in a system. I think our community can make a positive outcome for the kids in care in the Missouri's state custody," Alonso said. 

The website of the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association has details on how to foster a child.