TOPEKA – May is Foster Care Awareness Month in Kansas and across the
nation. The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services this month is
spotlighting the needs of the more than 5,000 children in state
Most often, children who have been
removed from their home by a judge and placed in foster care by SRS are
vulnerable and disadvantaged. They may have experienced abuse, neglect or other
traumatizing situations. They need a loving, attentive foster family that will
help them make a fresh start.
“Being a foster parent is a
life-changing experience,” said SRS Secretary Phyllis Gilmore. “It’s a unique
opportunity to forever change the direction of a child’s life and impact who
they become as adults.”
Lucy Castillo, from Emporia,
experienced the life-changing impact of a foster parent firsthand. A judge
pulled her from her home when neglect by her mother and truancy from school
combined to put Lucy in difficult circumstances. She was placed with a foster
parent, Stella. In Stella’s home, Lucy found new motivation to complete school
and pursue her dream of becoming a chef. Her foster mom and other adults in her
support network encouraged her as she tried various avenues to complete her high
school degree, including alternative school, online education, and finally
through a GED.
“I knew that I wanted to be in the kitchen, to be a chef, and
I knew I couldn’t do it without that piece of paper. I knew had to accomplish
that goal to get to bigger goals,” Lucy said.
She is now enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Flint
Hills Technical School. In addition, she was recently recognized nationally as
one of the top 100 Outstanding Youth Leaders for her work in the Kansas Youth
Advisory Council, a leadership and advocacy organization made up exclusively of
Kansas youth have been in the foster care system.
Lucy’s KYAC advisor, Vicki Richardson, nominated her for the
“She’s always involved in activities and travels all over the
state to talk to foster parents, judges, workers,” Richardson said. “She’s quick
to volunteer, doesn’t like limelight and doesn’t necessarily need
The Kansas Youth Advisory Council (KYAC) has long advocated
for the rights and needs of foster children. Because the council is made up of
foster children and alumni of the foster care network, they have a unique
perspective on the challenges faced by children in state care.
During the 2011 legislative session, their work to equalize
high school graduation credit requirements for youth in state care was signed
into law. Now, a child who has ever been in the foster care network after age 14
will only be required to attain the minimum number of credits set by the Kansas
Board of Regents in order to graduate. This is beneficial for foster youth
because the instability of their situations may cause them to transfer to a
school with higher graduation requirements than their previous just before they
are supposed to graduate.
Lucy is currently an alumni and past historian of the KYAC.
She said her involvement, which included drafting a foster care bill of rights,
helping other youth develop independent living skills, producing a transition
guide and working with foster parents, motivated her to continue moving through
life on a good, productive path.
“Being in the KYAC and being seen as a leader makes me want
to keep going in a positive direction,” Lucy said.
Currently, Lucy is working to promote “Band Together Day,”
which is on the second Friday of May every year. On May 11, foster youth,
providers and supporters will wear blue wristbands to show their support of
youth in state care.
“We want to encourage people to be a positive influence in someone’s life,” Lucy
Currently, there are 5,119
children in the custody of SRS and in out-of-home placement.
To find out more about becoming a
foster parent or mentor, call 877-345-6787.