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Missouri, Kansas suffer from urgent need for foster families

Two Americas: foster care
Posted at 8:07 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 21:07:46-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Imagine being a child and having your entire life uprooted again and again.

It's what thousands of kids in Kansas and Missouri go through on a regular basis.

Right now, there are nearly 6,500 kids in Kansas foster care and more than 20,000 in Missouri.

In this Two Americas report, we're focusing on an often-overlooked segment of the foster care system: children with mental health or behavioral issues.

Kansas foster parent Andy Rogan has been welcoming foster kids and teens into her home now for the last six years.

You can hear the sincerity in her voice when she talks about them.

"I love them, they're my kids," Rogan said.

When asked about the kids she has fostered over the years, she loves speaking about the fulfilling moments she's shared with them.

"They find out things about what it's like to be a family and trust and rely on each other and be open and honest with each other," Rogan said.

Rogan, her husband, and their biological son Jack, have fostered eight kids of different ages over the years.

Often times, they come from trauma, having been removed from a home life that wasn't safe.

Rogan said she and her family witness the kids succeed and grow by providing them a loving home, structure and a listening ear.

"It's like a feeling of proud-ness because I'm just really happy that they have grown as a person just over the course of being here, and I just know that they will continue growing with the tools that we gave them," Jack Rogan said.

Rogan became a foster parent through KVC Kansas.

Jessica Elliott, the child placing director at KVC Kansas, said the nonprofit desperately needs more families, specifically for kids with mental health and behavioral issues.

Elliott said the need became much more urgent in the last few years since the state legislature eliminated the need for the juvenile justice system, leaving the foster care system struggling to handle an influx of kids with elevated needs.

Since then, Elliott said the state has seen some improvements.

"The number of kids in foster care has dropped drastically, which is great, which means we are doing good prevention work up front and we are really putting in the effort to keep families together whenever it's safe to do so," Elliott said.

So why don't more families want to be foster parents? With the shift in the type of homes KVC needs right now, Elliott doesn't sugarcoat it, families are scared.

"It's hard, and it's a lot of work, but it's what we need right now, that's where we're at," Elliott said.

KVC is actively recruiting families for treatment foster care, which means taking care of kids after they've received treatment at the Niles Residential Facility in Kansas City, Missouri.

The center serves kids with mental health needs either in foster care or at risk.

Amanda Everson, child placing director for KVC Missouri, said kids often make a lot of improvement at Niles, but they will start to regress if they have nowhere to go when they're ready for discharge.

"They are the kids that really need families, they need us the most and are going through things that we couldn't even imagine and so for them to feel unwanted or unloved or that they have nowhere to go, is really devastating," Everson said.

While KVC Niles has a vast list of resources and services for the kids it serves, the one thing that can help them even more are families with loving homes.

KVC provides in-depth training and resources to families, like Andy Rogan, who said she appreciates the support.

She hopes anyone interested in becoming a foster parent will reach out to KVC and learn more.

While she's shared her home with a handful of children over the years, the most rewarding part always remains the same.

"Seeing them succeed, seeing them find themselves, seeing them enjoy life, that there is a different way of life," Rogan said.

Two Americas is part of a KSHB and Scripps signature issue to help introduce our community to the America you know and the America you might not know. Our role as the media is to share the news of the day, but we also seek to give a voice to people we don't hear from often.

Of course, there are many parts that make up our community, so we’re not just showing you two and we’re not pitting two sides against each other. Instead, we’re hoping to highlight solutions and showcase different perspectives to help us all better understand our area's culture, our area's past, and why our community feels the way it does today.