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The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Kirkwood High School student newspaper

The Kirkwood Call

Fostering change

Foster+kids+in+Missouri+need+loving+homes+now+more+than+ever%2C+and+it+starts+with+you.
Natalie Hosto
Foster kids in Missouri need loving homes now more than ever, and it starts with you.

While many children snuggle under their covers as they excitedly await presents under the Christmas tree, a young boy tosses and turns on an old couch in an unfamiliar office, unable to fall asleep. It’s Christmas Eve, a time of joy, laughter and family, yet he cannot be with his own.

This is the unfortunate reality for countless foster kids in the country. According to missouriindependent.com, there are over 13,300 children in foster care in Missouri alone, many of whom do not have a safe and stable place to go. Good Shepherd, a local fostering agency that services many districts across the greater St. Louis area, works to find homes for them, but it’s often a challenge. Deva Blackman, Director of Resources and Development at Good Shepherd, said teenagers are the hardest to find placements for.

“[Most foster parents] want cute little babies or ages 0 to 5, so the older kids get left out of the mix,” Blackman said. “It’s also because of the abuse or trauma [some of them] have been through. Sometimes, [teens] might have some behaviors or emotional challenges and families aren’t prepared for that.”

Kim Gisburne, licensing worker at Good Shepherd, said siblings are often challenging to find placements for, especially if they aren’t close in age. She said they do everything they can to keep siblings together.

“There might be a 2-year-old and a 14-year-old that we’re trying to keep together, but in that scenario, it’s almost impossible,” Gisburne said. “[Due to this,] we are always asking for our homes to stretch. If your home is interested in ages 2 to 8, it’s likely you’re going to get calls for nine to 11-year-olds [as well], because that’s what our need is.”

Gisburne said many kids in foster care constantly change locations, parental figures and don’t know where they will sleep at night. According to Gisburne, this can have a serious effect on their well-being.

“When you’ve got a big question mark hanging over your head asking, ‘Where am I going to live?’ it makes it difficult for [kids] to focus on some of the other issues that they probably need to,” Gisburne said. “It affects their education because they’re switching schools all the time, and it affects their mental health because they will often have to change therapists.”

We need to allow them to tell their own stories

— Morales

Though there aren’t enough people to care for foster kids, some rise up to meet the call for the shortage. Briana Morales began teaching at Gordon Bush Alternative Center, a non-traditional school in East St. Louis for at-risk youth, when she realized the demand for foster homes in the area. She said she exclusively fosters at-risk teenage boys, one of just a handful of foster parents in the city that does so.

“The term that’s been evolving in the education world is ‘at-promise teens’ because it’s the belief that each of them have potential and promise inside of them,” Morales said. “I’ve met many kids throughout my career who have lots of different needs, skills or abilities, but are still extremely resilient children who believe in the life that they want to have and are really fighting to have a chance at it.”

When you’ve got a big question mark hanging over your head asking, ‘Where am I going to live?’ it makes it difficult for [kids] to focus on some of the other issues that they probably need to.

— Gisburne

Unfortunately, many adults do not see them in this positive light, and, according to fosterva.org, many kids are subject to harmful stereotypes about their character and person. Morales said in order to combat this, we must let foster kids advocate for themselves.

“Often, we speak for our children about who they are or where they’ve come from,” Morales said. “Each of us operates from different lived experiences and worldviews so each of our [perspectives] are incomplete. We know what we’ve been through and where we come from, [but] not always the truth about what other kids have lived through. We need to allow them to tell their own stories.”

Good Shepherd is on year two of their 10-year plan to license 250 foster homes across the areas they service. Blackman said she understands not everyone is equipped to be a foster parent, but people can assist the fostering community in other ways.

“We are always looking for different avenues to reach the public,” Blackman said. “Maybe there’s a family that can’t foster but can provide meals and food or do their yard care. If there are people who can help our foster parents with whatever needs, whether it’s transporting kids back and forth between activities or providing childcare services, that makes it more likely that foster parents will continue fostering, foster more kids and they could have a [more stable] system.”

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About the Contributors
Avery Haden, news writer
She/Her Hobbies and Interests: reading, writing, running, hiking Favorite song: In My Mind by Lyn LapidIn Favorite Quote: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Natalie Hosto, artist
She/Her Hobbies and Interests: drawing Favorite movie: Good Morning, Vietnam Favorite Quote: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain
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