TOPEKA – More than 6,000 Kansas children are in foster care for a variety of reasons. The most prevalent reason is physical abuse. Drug abuse is often a factor in these homes. For many of these children, being removed from their home is a frightening and traumatic experience. But for one Kansas man, he says it was the best thing that could have happened to him. Dr. Jaime Schwandt, Cheney, is now inspiring others in care to embrace their experience and build the life they deserve.
“Foster care saved my life, in little Kensington, Kansas,” Schwandt said. “I can’t thank all the people of that town enough. If it wasn’t for foster care, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Foster care in Kansas should be a model to the nation.”
Schwandt, author of Succeeding as a Foster Child: A Roadmap to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Success, was one of several speakers who addressed a crowd today, at the State Capitol Building in Topeka. The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) hosted an annual informational event on foster care, in honor of Foster Care Month. The afternoon included a news conference, nearly a dozen booths on foster care services, a lunch provided by DCF’s foster care contractors, KVC and Saint Francis Community Services, and music from the Topeka High School jazz band.
Other speakers at the event included Eugene (Gene) and Joy Rothfuss, Colby, who since 2011, have fostered approximately 60 children. The pastor and his wife encourage others to consider becoming foster parents.
“Foster parenting is very rewarding, though not always easy,” Gene Rothfuss said. “We have chosen to be foster parents because it makes a difference in the world. It takes a lot of people working together to care for these children, and the foster parents are the boots on the ground. When that child takes your hand and puts their trust in you, then it’s worth it.”
Governor Brownback applauds those who give their time, attention and love to children in foster care.
“Being a foster parent is one of the most selfless things a person can do,” Governor Brownback said. “We have too many children coming from homes where their parents cannot or choose not to care for their sons and daughters. We are fortunate to have foster parents ready and willing to provide them a safe and loving home.”
Informational booths and tables were sponsored by stakeholder groups including KVC, Saint Francis Community Services, Children’s Alliance, DCCCA, Ember Hope, Global Orphan Project, KCSL, KFAPA, KYAC, Project Belong, Safe Families, TFI and Wichita Children’s Home.
Brownback officially designated May as Foster Care Month at a proclamation signing on April 21, at the State Capitol Building.
FOSTER CARE STATISTICS:
- There are currently 6,337 children in foster care in Kansas (as of March 31, 2015).
- Approximately 2,500 family foster homes are licensed in Kansas.
- Approximately 360 children are available for adoption in the state.
- 95 percent of children in foster care are placed in a family-like setting.
- The average age of a foster child is eight.
- 32 percent of children are placed with a relative.
- Of the children in out-of-home placement 57 percent have a case plan goal of reintegration (returning home).
To be a foster parent you must:
- Be at least 21
- Pass background checks
- Have sufficient income
- Participate in a family assessment
- Complete training
- Obtain sponsorship
- Complete first aid training
- Be licensed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Learn more about foster care in Kansas by contacting KVC in the DCF East and Kansas City regions and St. Francis Community Services in DCF’s Wichita and West regions. Contract information is available at www.dcf.ks.gov
(Eugene (Gene) and Joy Rothfuss, Colby)
Eugene Rothfuss is a pastor at Colby Wesleyan Church. His wife, Joy, is the administrative assistant at the church. They are licensed foster parents through Saint Francis Community Services. Since 2011, they have fostered approximately 60 children, primarily in respite and police protective custody placements.
(Dr. Jamie Schwandt speaking at today’s foster care news conference, Topeka.)
Dr. Jamie Schwandt is a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve. Schwandt serves as a public speaker and has presented his research and personal story of challenges and triumphs for many organizations and audiences. Schwandt had a difficult childhood and overcame significant obstacles to get where he is today. He was born in a small town in Kansas in a family where his parents abused drugs and alcohol. Both parents battled depression while suffering from other mental health issues. His father committed suicide when he was 18 years old. As a child, Schwandt witnessed many dangerous and poor decisions made by his parents.
From birth to 18, Schwandt moved more than 20 times with his parents, grandparents, and in the foster care system. He enlisted in the United States Army Reserve when he was just 17 years old and continues to proudly serve his country, including deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Despite the challenges he faced during his upbringing, Schwandt obtained a bachelors and masters degrees from Fort Hays State University. In May 2013, he received a doctorate degree from Kansas State University.