TOPEKA – With more than 6,600 children in foster care in Kansas, there is a constant need to ensure loving foster families are ready and willing to care for children in need. A large number of the youth in the State’s care have special physical, emotional and/or behavioral needs. An event today, at the State Capitol Building, Topeka, highlighted stories of hope for youth in foster care and celebrated those who provide care for youth with special needs.
First Lady Mary Brownback joined the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) and community partners at the Statehouse to celebrate Foster Care Month. The event included a news conference, more than 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.
Manhattan High School senior Peyton Peterson, who has been in foster care since he was seven, plans to hit campus at Kansas State University, his wheelchair not holding him back from big dreams.
“I plan to become a biochemist, because I want to make a difference in the world,” said Peterson. “The opportunity I have wouldn’t have been there for me without the foster care system. Foster care has helped many people I know who would have otherwise just been left.”
Topekans Derek and Stephanie Sharp have parented several youth in foster care over the past 13 years, including some with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Being a foster parent is like a bridge, because the giving goes both ways,” said Derek Sharp. “We have been able to provide things for the kids that they wouldn’t have otherwise had, but they have brought to our family amazing things too. Our biological children have grown so much from the experience, and they will be better people because of it.”
The First Lady discussed how members of the community can impact the lives of youth in foster care through the HOPE Mentoring program, which this summer will add a youth mentoring component to the recently launched program for adults who receive financial assistance.
“There is a great need in the foster care system, and there are many roles to play,” said the First Lady. “We want every child to have a loving environment to grow up in, but we also want to help every youth aging out of the system to be able to have a mentor who will help them as they transition into adulthood.”
Informational booths and tables were sponsored by stakeholder groups including: KVC, St. Francis Community Services, Children’s Alliance, DCCCA, Ember Hope, GO Project, Lifeline, Shelter, KCSL, KFAN, KFAPA, KYAC and TFI.
Foster Care Statistics:
• There are currently 6,685 children in foster care in Kansas.
• Approximately 2,750 family foster homes are licensed in Kansas.
• Approximately 350 children are available for adoption in the state.
• Approximately 94 percent of children in foster care are placed in a family-like setting.
• The average age of a child in foster care is eight.
• 57 percent of children in foster care have a case plan goal of reintegration.
• 33 percent of children in foster care are placed with a relative.
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 for Children and Families
(DCF Prevention and Protection Services Director
Deneen Dryden addresses the need for more foster families)
(Peyton Peterson shares his personal story as a youth in foster care)
(Derek Sharp talks about parenting youth in foster care)