Missouri Aggressively Pushes Foster Care Reform and Advocacy

At the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association’s 9th annual Forget Me Not Gala, Gov. Eric Greitens promised an aggressive agenda. He recounted some of the changes already on the books and added, “We also want to make this the best state in the country for families who want to adopt and give children a permanent and loving home.”

Missouri’s First Lady, Sheena Greitens, has been making great strides for foster care. Soon after arriving at the Governor’s Mansion she invited advocates for children to undertake productive conversation and share hopes for the future. Colleen Polak, director of legal services for Voices for Children in St. Louis said, “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?”

Atop her priority list is making a change to the banking laws in the state. Currently the law required an adult co-signer for a minor to open a bank account. That can be problematic for foster youth. House Bill 1715 will change the bank contracts for minors who are in foster care. Fred Wulczyn of the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall says, “In these contexts, the state is the legal parent situation. And they have certain responsibilities, and why make it harder for kids in this situation to make the transition to adulthood?”

In December, Missouri joined the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise to make fostering and adoption collaboration easier between states. In October, Mrs. Greitens happily announced that children in foster care no longer have to pay the $15 fee to get a copy of their birth certificate.

Wulczyn added, “Any time people in positions of particularly political visibility take an interest in foster children and foster care, that’s an important thing.”