Missouri foster parents get help from Legislature, but why are more children coming into state care? | Regional
In a common situation, once a major concern is reported, the Children’s Division meets with the family, as well as any invited friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, pastors or other people who know the child. The team meets quickly to see what services and supports can be provided to keep the child safe. Even if a workable solution can’t be made, and the case goes to court, the team continues to meet before and after any changes in the child’s placement.
In 2002, the year before the program started, there were 3,141 children in the state foster care system from the city of St. Louis, according to state records. By 2006, there were 1,879. The numbers continued to drop from there. In 2010, there were 1,218 and 902 in 2020.
“The goal always was to keep the family as intact as you could. To find resources,” said retired Judge Thomas Frawley, who ran the juvenile court in the city when Team Decision Making came into play.
He said it was a collaboration with the Children’s Division, whose director in the city at that time was Tena Thompson.
“We were honest with our numbers. We challenged ourselves. We challenged our community,” Thompson said in an interview, adding: “It is possible to keep children safe and at home with proper support, interventions and follow-up and oversight.”
Naysayers at the time asked what would happen if the support system broke down and tragedy happened, always a stress in child welfare. But on the flip side, Thompson said, there was buy-in.