Being a foster or adoptive parent can be very expensive and difficult at times. We all have known someone who has been affected by the foster care system or have been directly involved with helping someone find a good home. There are several reasons why people consider becoming a foster parent; the desire to help children, wanting to give back to the community, biological children have grown up and they miss the day-to-day parenting, etc. No matter the reason, foster parents provide an essential service to children who need so much, and I would like to thank all of the foster and adoptive parents in our communities across the state for their hard work and dedication. Thanks to the enactment of a new law, Missouri’s foster parents who care for children with special needs, such as serious physical abuse, severe chronic neglect, or sexual abuse, now have a way to provide quality health care for themselves and the children they foster.
This week, the state of Missouri took an important step in facilitating the needs of foster parents and children when the governor signed House Bill 1576, a bill I handled in the Senate, which requires the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP) to allow any state-licensed foster parent to purchase the same state health insurance as state employees for themselves and their dependents. This legislation was enacted to give foster parents and children access to quality health care insurance and to help facilitate the needs of foster children. The measure will take effect on Aug. 28, 2012, and the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) must provide the plan with the appropriate documentation of initial and ongoing eligibility requirements for foster parents and children who qualify.
The governor also signed two other important measures relating to children and family services for Missourians. House Bill 1577 provides criteria to help schools increase the academic success of foster children and House Bill 1172 extends and expands a tax credit program for agencies that provide residential care and treatment for youth and families. The legislation also establishes a tax credit program for donations to developmental disability care providers. Both measures take effect on Aug. 28, 2012.
According to DSS, the average age of children living in foster care is just below 10 years old and their average stay in alternative care is slightly more than 24 months. Since 2010, there have been more than 10,000 children in state custody, and roughly 3,500 youth placed in the foster care system. Providing an avenue for health insurance is one step, but there are plenty of ways you can help, even if your situation won’t allow you to become a foster parent. Ask your local church to help promote foster parenting, offer to buy a scout uniform or a prom dress for a foster child, donate a new coat or bedding, or donate phone cards so that a youth in foster care can stay in touch with family members. There are several ways we can work together to help foster children and families. We can pass as many bills as needed, but its individual efforts and strong community ties that make a real difference.
As always, if you would like to learn more about Missouri’s foster care system, bills signed into law, or any matter involving state government, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at Senator Mike Parson, State Capitol Building, Room 334. Phone: 573/751-8793 or 800/752-8256. My constituents have always been and will remain my top priority.