According to Fosteradopt Connect , there are roughly 3,600 children in foster care in the Kansas City metro area, a number that’s grown throughout the years.
On Monday, a group of health care workers, elected officials and social welfare workers took a field trip to get a first-hand look at what it’s like to be a child in the foster care system.
“It's so important that our community recognize these children,” founder of Fosteradopt Connect, Lori Ross said. “Typically they're hidden, they're not seen because they are in foster homes in the community. They go to school with your kids, they live in your neighborhoods, but you never know what their history is or background is.”
The event called Journey Home Bus Tour is hosted by Fosteradopt Connect, an advocacy center for abused and neglected children and the families who care for them.
“This is a great opportunity for us to bring together a whole bunch of people whose lives don't necessarily intersect with our kids to see what our kids' needs are,” Ross said.
Participants were each given a card of a child's identity and their scenario.
The children and the scenarios on the cards were fictional, but it gave participants an idea of what a foster child could actually go through.
“So I had a seven-year-old girl. She had twin brothers that were 11 months old and she was basically their primary caregiver. Their mom was not home most nights and so she was kind of managing the house,” Kristen Trumpp said, who is a participant and the regional manager for Care Portal in KC.
Participants were also handed trash bags, what these children are given to pack up their belongings.
“The reality of the trauma hits you of just how scary it would be to be removed from everything that's familiar to you,” Trumpp said. “And removed from all of your own belongings and just to kind of be on a ride with other people telling you where to go and what to do."
During the three hour bus tour, there were several stops made. Participants learned more about the foster care process, and who all the children talk to, from health care workers to police to child protection agencies.
“I think you start to feel the emotions of that a little bit,” Trumpp said as she explained what it felt like experiencing what the children go through.
Ross says the need of awareness is huge.
“Starting in 2008, the number of children in foster care increased. It got to the highest level ever I believe in 2014, 2015 ever in the history of the foster care system in both Missouri and Kansas,” Ross said. “It increased more than 70 percent in both states and so the number of kids coming into care was huge. It was more than any of our systems ever imagined...and mostly because of the recession.”
Ross says this event will get the message out that anyone can help be an advocate.
“We are so grateful for that and for the opportunity to get this information out there so folks who are thinking about ‘how can I make a difference for kids in foster care,’” Ross said. “Whether it's by becoming a foster parent or by donating to an agency supporting kids, or by getting by as a volunteer, decide that maybe hey this is a sign that I need to reach out and make that call.”
Trumpp says the education and awareness have really been an eye opener.
“I think just that educational piece of just step by step,” she said. “We heard from so many passionate professionals. So not just people who do this for their 9 to 5, but people who dedicate their lives to this and I think that was really beneficial.”
This is the second year Fosteradopt Connect has held the event and Ross says it ties in with November because of National Adoption Month.
For more information on how to get involved, click here.
Rae Daniel can be reached at Rae.Daniel@KSHB.com.