Foster parents fight stigma after child's hot car death in Wichita

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A group of foster parents is speaking out in the hopes of heading off criticism and what they see as a persistent stigma against foster parents one day after a foster father left his 10-month-old foster child in a hot car and she died.

“It’s really hard when a tragedy like this happens, and then people question the method and why you do what you do,” Joni Hiatt, the Kansas Program Director for the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association, said.

Hiatt has fostered more than 100 children, and she has adopted two girls she and her husband raised alongside their own biological daughter. She, and others in the organization, fears the news that the 10-month-old was in the care of foster parents, not her biological parents, will spur a backlash or deepen a perceived stigma against foster parents everywhere.

“It could have happened in any home: in any foster home, in any home, in any adoptive home,” Hiatt said. “We have an important job. We're raising other people's children. We're raising the community's children. With that comes a lot of responsibility.”

This year, the number of children in foster homes in Kansas reached record levels. The state has privatized its foster system, and a number of different agencies handle licensing and background checks on behalf of the state.

Hiatt is licensed by the same agency, TFI , which licensed the two men who were fostering the young girl in Wichita, Kan., and vouched for their thoroughness.

“I can't even imagine what they're going through, but I know that all the safety measures were taken that could have been by the licensing agency and by the state,” Hiatt said.    

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