Foster Care | St. Louis Public Radio

Foster Care

Ryan Dowis (at left) and Melanie Scheetz joined Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss current challenges facing the region’s most vulnerable youth and those who care for them.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time in two decades, a growing number of children in St. Louis and Missouri are in foster care, and the opioid epidemic is a driving factor.

“[The number of children in foster care] had really been declining for many years, and especially in the St. Louis region but all across Missouri we saw fewer and fewer children in the system,” Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the St. Louis-based Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air. “Obviously that’s our goal – not to have children in the foster-care system. But unfortunately, when we have parents with substance-abuse issues, especially opioids, we see more kids coming into care.”

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End. 2016
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Missouri voters elected Eric Greitens governor, his wife, Sheena Greitens, has been working on behalf of a group that doesn’t usually get much attention from high profile advocates: the 13,000 children in the custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.

The children include those placed with relatives, adoptive families, residential care and foster care.

Melanie Barrier was adopted at age 10 by a Columbia, Missouri ,couple, after living in 20 different foster homes.
Carolina Hidalgo| St. Louis Public Radio

Melanie Barrier went into the Florida foster care system as a newborn. She lived in 20 foster homes before she was adopted at age 10.

Stability existed in only one realm: music. As a child traveling from family to family, Barrier took along her beloved songs of the 1970s.

Gov. Eric Greitens signs the Foster Care Bill of Rights into law. (June 22, 2017)
Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens on Thursday signed into law a bill designed to improve the safety and quality of life of children in Missouri's foster care system.

 

At the heart of the measure is the Foster Care Bill of Rights, which begins by stating the “best interests of the child shall be the first priority of the children’s division” of the Department of Social Services.

Kids sitting on the floor in a classroom
Phil Roeder | Flickr

Two national child advocacy organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Social Services, alleging that children in the state’s foster care system are over-prescribed psychotropic medications with little oversight.

“They’re prescribed off-label, to control behaviors,” said Bill Grimm, an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, which filed the lawsuit on Monday. “While many other states have instituted some sort of oversight … Missouri has very little to none of those safeguards in place.”

The suit seeks class action status. State officials declined comment, citing pending litigation.

(via flickr/jimbowen0306)

Children leaving the foster care system after their 18th birthday would be able to return to state custody under a bill passed by the Missouri Senate.
 
Current law allows children to remain in the foster care system until they are 21, but prevents re-entry if they leave after turning 18.
 
The measure sponsored by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus of Kansas City would allow those who leave the system to re-enter until they turn 21.
 
 Justus says it allows children to come back home if they have a hard time in the "real world."
 

Catholic Charities withdraws civil unions lawsuit

Nov 14, 2011
(via Flickr/s_falkow)

Catholic Charities says it's withdrawing from a legal battle over Illinois' civil unions law and no longer is providing state-funded services.

The move ends the group's long history in Illinois of providing foster care and adoptions.

Diocese officials in Joliet, Springfield and Belleville say Monday's decision was reached with reluctance. The Catholic Diocese of Peoria withdrew last month.

Hearing on hold in dispute over Catholic adoptions

Sep 9, 2011
(via Flickr/steakpinball)

Catholic Charities is delaying its plan to ask a judge to reconsider or stay his ruling that Illinois officials may cut off the nonprofit's state contracts for adoptions and foster care placements.

A hearing had been scheduled Friday in Springfield on Catholic Charities' quest to have a Sangamon County judge rethink or hold off enforcing his recent ruling that favored the state.

Catholic Charities to appeal foster-care ruling

Aug 29, 2011
(via Flickr/steakpinball)

An attorney for Catholic Charities says the not-for-profit agency will appeal a judge's ruling that the state of Illinois can stop working with the group on adoptions and foster-care placements.

Ill. judge rules against Catholics on foster care

Aug 18, 2011
(via Flickr/steakpinball)

A central Illinois judge has ruled that Catholic Charities does not have a right to state contracts for adoptions and foster care placements and Illinois officials may cut them off.

The state Department of Children and Family Services ended $30 million in contracts with Catholic Charities in July because the not-for-profit won't work with unmarried couples in placing children in adoptive and foster homes. Illinois authorities say that violates the state's civil union law.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In St. Louis, 913 children who lack a permanent place to call home depend on the city's foster care system. Of those roughly 900 children, 815, or 89 percent, are African American.

The metropolitan area has a total of 1,800 children in foster care, and 1,400 of these children are African American.