In Kansas, more children than ever before are in the foster care system. According to the most recent data, this includes 6,522 children.
But as more children are put into the care of the state, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find each child a home.
"If we don't have a local family, those children are unfortunately not going to be able to be cared for close to home," said Jenny Kutz, the director of communications for KVC Health Systems. "We would like to are for them in foster families close to their home community and their school district and disrupt their lives as little as possible."
According to Kutz, counties which desperately need more foster parents include :
- Douglas counties
"This problem affects every community, every neighborhood and we really need adults to step up," she said.
Barbara Klinedinst-Shields is one of those adults. She and her husband have been foster parents for seven years and have cared for more than 300 children. Over the years, they adopted three children and are currently caring for six more.
"It's like a life-long connection when you do foster care," Klinedinst-Shields said. "It's not just, 'oh I give them back or they leave and go to a shelter.' I always tell my kids, 'you have my phone number in your red book. You can call me any time.'"
Foster parents are compensated for each child, to help pay for clothing, food and medical needs. However, to first become a parent you have to meet several qualifications.
General guidelines for becoming a foster parent (Source: KVC Health Systems):
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Be able to meet basic income guidelines—cannot rely on assistance, such as Food Stamps, TANF or Medicaid
- Be able to provide adequate bedroom space, including a separate bed for each child
- Have reliable transportation
- Complete a 30-hour training class (10 weeks, 3 hours a week)
- Agree to use non-physical discipline for children
- Undergo complete background check, including being fingerprinted
The process typically takes three to six months to complete. The maximum number of children a parent can foster is four, with exceptions such as keeping siblings together.
MORE: Learn about the Kansas foster care system and how to become a parent