The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is putting its faith in an Arkansas-based recruitment organization to help bring in more foster families.
DCF is working with The CALL, a Christian organization that takes no state money but is credited with supplying nearly half of foster homes in Arkansas, to establish a comparable initiative in the Sunflower State.
DCF “has a Faith-based and Community Initiatives division, that is specifically tasked with recruiting foster families,” said DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel, in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change. “The division is actively engaged with community groups and faith groups to recruit family foster homes. The Call to Care Initiative is just one partnership of many the agency has to recruit.”
Meier-Hummel initiated Call to Care after taking the position in December. She said Arkansas’ The CALL has been “consulting with The Call to Care Initiative … to bring innovative changes in training for foster families Kansas.”
The CALL was founded in 2007 by a group of church leaders and child advocates in Pulaski County, Arkansas. The organization plans to operate in 54 of the state’s 75 counties by the end of 2018. [Click here for The Chronicle’s in-depth look at The CALL from November 2017]
Without taking a dime of government funding, the group is credited with supplying 40 percent of the foster homes on the roster of the Arkansas Department of Children and Families.
One facet of The CALL’s operation that Kansas intends to import is the streamlined, one-time training to supplant the state’s current options: a 10-week training (one day per week for three hours) and a one-on-one program that takes seven weeks.
The Call to Care training will be conducted over the course of two weekends, in partnership with the Kansas Children’s Service League. That is exactly the variation developed by Arkansas’ The CALL, which compressed the state’s Foster/Adopt PRIDE into a two-weekend session.
A pilot version of this training is underway in Shawnee County.
The number of children in Kansas foster care has risen every year since 2011. There were 7,302 in fiscal 2016, according to federal data, up from 5,852 in 2011.
“With more than 7,300 children in foster care, the demand for family foster homes is great, and it’s time to make some changes, so we can accommodate the loving people who want to open their homes to children in need, but simply don’t have the time to spend 10 weeks in a classroom,” said Meier-Hummel. “Additionally, we need homes now, not 10 weeks down the road.”
Meier-Hummel said the faith-based initiative will proceed whether or not the state passes a pending bill that permits selective recruitment of homes by faith-based providers. A law passed by the Kansas Senate would have allowed faith-based groups to turn away LGBTQ couples and unmarried candidates. DCF supported the bill, but the House rejected it.