Lanette Bowring, Missouri Coalition for Children Board Member
Since 1998, May has been established as National Foster Care Month with the focus to increase local and national awareness of foster care issues. Each May is an opportunity for individuals, agencies and systems of care to take the time to recognize the important role that people from all parts of child welfare play in supporting children, youth and families. Caseworkers, guardians, counselors, advocates, judges and foster parents make a child’s welfare their priority and National Foster Care Month recognizes the dedication of these important people who promote compassionate, stable homes for children.
The theme of National Foster Care Month this year is "Relative and Kin Connections: Keeping Families Strong" which speaks to the positive impact relative and kin have for youth who are in the child welfare system. We all know that families are the most important experts on their own lives bringing stability and comfort to their children. However, when a child cannot safely stay with their parents, relative and kinship care is the natural first path to take. There are over 14,000 children in foster care in Missouri. Of those 14,000, almost half of them are currently placed in the homes of their relative or kin with a goal to continue to increase these numbers. The aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, and grandparents who open their homes and provide a sense of normalcy very much need and deserve our support.
Support for relative and kinship providers can look many different ways including compensation to meet the child’s monthly needs, support through in-home visits and regular communication as well as the opportunity to connect with other relative and kinship providers through support groups. It is imperative that caregivers have access to dedicated programs supporting and raising awareness about kinship care and pertinent resources. To learn more about how you can celebrate National Foster Care Month please see the state and national links below.