OLATHE, Kan. — KVC Kansas is working to address racial disparities in the foster care system.
The organization recently launched an initiative to recruit more African American foster families.
Angela Hedrick, vice president of operations for KVC Kansas, said it can be traumatic for youth to enter foster care, which is why the agency always tries to place children with someone as similar to them as possible.
"It provides a supportive environment for them, and it just reduces the number of adjustments that the youth has to make and that the family has to make," Hedrick said.
Hedrick also said Black youth are over-represented in the foster care system nationally.
In 2018, Black youth represented about 14% of the overall population but about 21% of children in foster care. White youth were 50% of the population but about 44% of youth in foster care.
KVC reports only about 4% of its foster homes have Black parents, but more than 20% of foster kids are Black.
As a biracial woman, foster parent Teena Wilkie said she agrees with KVC's push for more Black foster families.
"I had two boys that were mixed, they were half Black and half white, which I'm half Black and half Mexican and my husband's half Black and half white so I think the thing that they liked about it is that they could easily say that we were their mom and dad and nobody was questioning that," Wilkie said.
Wilkie hopes sharing her experience as a foster parent will inspire other families to consider it.
"At first it was really scary because I was like 'Oh my gosh I don't know what we're getting into,'" Wilkie said. "But it's been really great, we've met so many kids, and we call them our bonus kids, we don't call them our foster kids."
Wilkie said being with a family of the same race provides benefits beyond comfortablity for the children.
"Also understanding how they're feeling when other kids treat them different, say things about them, is also a really big benefit," Wilkie said.
For families interested in foster care, KVC provides education and resources to set both parents and kids up for success.
Wilkie hopes the loving and caring families out there who are able will consider it.
"I think if you're on the fence, just ask more questions about it, because it really is a good thing," Wilkie said.