COLUMN: Foster parents and children need our support

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | 6:07 p.m. CDT; updated 7:49 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The foster care system in the state of Missouri is in danger of falling so far behind the rest of the country that it will never catch up.

Currently, Missouri ranks 49th nationally in the rate of reimbursement for foster parents based on a 2007 study by the advocacy group Children's Rights. The study showed that Missouri would need to more than double its reimbursement rate in order to meet what the study established as the Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children.

If you go

Who: National Foster Parent Association

What: A 5k fundraiser walk to raise funds for and awareness about foster care.

When: Registration starts at 9 a.m., and the walk begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16.

Where: Stephens Lake Park, 2100 E. Broadway.

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Federal law requires welfare systems to provide payments to cover foster children's basic needs including food, shelter, clothing and school supplies. In order to cover these needs, the study recommended a payment of $788 per month for children over 16. At the time, Missouri was reimbursing foster parents $358 per month, about $11.70 per day.

Think about how much money you’ve spent already today. Did you grab coffee this morning? Did you buy a new pair of jeans? Did you buy a newspaper? How far do you think you could stretch an $11.70-per-day lifestyle? Although like many parents, it often becomes more challenging and time consuming than a full-time job.

However, I’m not a foster parent, nor am I a foster child, so I can complain about this great injustice that never seems to reach the public eye. Although foster parents don’t complain about the money, the system in Boone County is on a slippery slope. The number of children in the county’s foster care system continues to increase slowly while the number of licensed foster care homes is slightly decreasing. According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, 20 percent of children in foster care in Missouri are between the ages of 16 and 18, meaning they will be aging out of the system soon.

Thankfully, there is an organization called Hope Chest for Kids, which is dedicated to supporting foster families and has made it a focus to look for ways to help children aging out of the system. Hope Chest tries to provide many of the little things that can’t possibly be covered by $11.70 per day. That might be a new prom dress, a musical instrument or money for dance lessons. Hope Chest also has a food distribution system that rotates between five different counties.

But Hope Chest for Kids needs support too, which is why it is holding a 5k walk fundraiser this Saturday called “Walk Me Home… to the place I belong” as part of a national series of walks sponsored by the National Foster Parent Association. Seventy percent of the proceeds go straight to Hope Chest for Kids. For more information about the walk, please go to

Please consider supporting this event or becoming a foster parent and spreading a little hope in our community. Columbia was just recently named one of the Top 100 places for young people to live. Let’s show the rest of the state that we also haven’t forgotten about those young people who are most vulnerable in our society.

Joe Bradley is a senior journalism student at MU and former reporter and graphic designer for the Columbia Missourian. He currently serves as the media and publicity chair for the walk. He began volunteering with Hope Chest for Kids after being touched by their cause while writing a story about the organization in December 2009 for the Missourian. You can reach him at

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