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Missouri foster children top agenda for first lady Sheena Greitens

or in licensed foster group homes.” -Missouri Department of Social Services The first lady invited advocates for Missouri children to the Governor’s Mansion soon after moving in, recalled Colleen Polak, director of of legal services for Voices for ...

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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 DivisionThe children include those placed with relatives, adoptive families, residential care and foster care “Out of Home Care is provided in situations where a parent or parents are incapable of providing a child or children with adequate social, emotional, and physical careOut of Home Care is defined as care provided in licensed foster or approved relative family homes, in licensed residential facilities, or in licensed foster group homes.” -Missouri Department of Social Services The first lady invited advocates for Missouri children to the Governor’s Mansion soon after moving in, recalled Colleen Polak, director of legal services for Voices for Children in StLouis“It was very remarkable,” said Polak, whose agency trains and coordinates advocates for children in foster care“She basically asked us what’s working well and what are some of the challenges and barriers facing the children that we are working with, and what do you think me and my husband can do to help?”  The foster care and adoption systems are “a priority” for both Eric and Sheena Greitens, said Parker Briden, spokesperson for both the governor and first lady“They have been working since day one to make a difference for foster families and our most vulnerable children,” Briden wrote in an emailLoading..Changes, minor and major Sheena Greitens has said having an adopted sister opened her eyes to how complicated fostering and adoption can beIn October, the first lady announced that Missouri children in foster care no longer have to pay $15 to get copies of their birth certificatesThat's important, Polak said, because foster kids don’t receive allowances and foster family stipends may not stretch far enough“When a kid is faced with needing the $15, it is often something that they just don’t have,” she saidIn December came another moveSheena Greitens announced that Missouri had joined the National Electronic Interstate Compact EnterpriseThe multistate collaboration is designed to make adoption and fostering across state lines easier by streamlining a process that can become snarled in red tapeLoading..“It requires the assignment of a caseworkerIt requires the assignment of a court to oversee the disposition of the caseAnd that turns out to be very complicated,” said foster care expert Fred Wulczyn of the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall For example, NEICE could help a Missouri child get placed with relatives or a foster home in a neighboring state faster and more efficiently Next on the first lady’s agenda: Making it easier for kids in foster care to open bank accountsIn Missouri, minors must have an adult co-signer but foster kids may not have a trusted grownup in their livesThat step is key for older foster kids as they prepare to age out of the system at age 21, Wulczyn said“In these contexts, the state is the legal parent situationAnd they have certain responsibilities,” he said"And why make it harder for kids in this situation to make the transition to adulthood?” Sponsored by state RepDon Phillips, R-Kimberling City, House Bill 1715 to change bank contracts for minors in foster care is on deck for the 2018 legislative session“An important thing” Such changes are the beginning of what Polak hopes will be a positive and productive era for Missouri children in foster careOn her wish list: more foster families to take in and care for vulnerable children and more resources to support the families“It would be great if our foster families could have more support and more resources to help them just navigate the challenges of a child who has been taken from their home and their family staying with them and becoming part of their home,” Polak saidIn the meantime, Polak and Wulczyn agree that more attention from Jefferson City makes additional changes likely“Any time people in positions of particularly political visibility take an interest in foster children and foster care, that’s an important thing,” Wulczyn said“For the children who are involved in this system, it’s everything to them,” Polak saidLoading.. RESOURCES: Voices for Children, StLouis  Missouri Department of Social Services: Programs and Services for Children Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (for research about children and families)  Follow Holly Edgell on Twitter @HollyEdgell Tags: Foster CareSheena GreitensEric Greitensfoster childrenfoster kidsTop StoriesTweetShareGoogle+EmailView the discussion thread Related Content GOP infighting may complicate Missouri's 2018 legislative session By Jo Mannies & Marshall Griffin • Dec 28, 2017 File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | StLouis Public Radio Heightened tensions between Missouri GovEric Greitens and fellow Republicans who control the General Assembly will likely add drama when the 2018 legislative session begins next WednesdayBecause 2018 is an election year, it’s long been assumed that lawmakers will avoid divisive topics that could upset votersBut that might not be possible this time Chasing the 2018 storylines about Missouri politics and policy By Jason Rosenbaum • Jan 2, 2018 File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | StLouis Public Radio It’s indisputable that 2017 produced enough policy and political storylines to keep bespectacled reporters busyBut an even-numbered year brings elections — and the potential for a whole different texture to the state’s politics Proposed Missouri law relieves firefighters from proving they got cancer on the job By Holly Edgell • Dec 20, 2017 Holly Edgell | StLouis Public Radio When firefighter Marnell Griffin died in January 2017, it was not due to burns, smoke inhalation or any of the other hazards people associate with his line of workGriffin, a 22-year veteran of the StLouis Fire Department, died of colon cancer Greitens succeeds in push to halt low-income housing tax credits By Marshall Griffin • Dec 19, 2017 File photo I Jason Rosenbaum I StLouis Public Radio Missouri will not issue $140 million dollars in state low income housing tax credits next year The Missouri Housing Development Commission voted 8 to 2 Tuesday to zero out the state’s low-income housing tax credit for the yearIt also voted to apply for the federal version of the incentive StLouis Public Radio is a service of

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