Footprints of foster care

Shauna Balk, at left with her 8-month-old foster child, chats with Sandy Graham, a volunteer with the Central Missouri Foster Care Adoption Association at a Shoe In event to bring awareness of the nearly 10,000 children in foster care in Missouri.

Shauna Balk, at left with her 8-month-old foster child, chats with Sandy Graham, a volunteer with the Central Missouri Foster Care Adoption Association at a Shoe In event to bring awareness of the nearly 10,000 children in foster care in Missouri. Photo by Gerry Tritz.

Though the thousands of shoes covering the state Capitol lawn Tuesday were only there briefly, the volunteers who assembled them hope the message will leave long-lasting footprints.

“Shoe in For Foster Care” was one of several events sponsored this month by the Central Missouri Foster Care & Adoption Association to raise awareness of children in the foster care system.

DeAnna Alonso, the organization’s executive director and founder, said the shoes were a visual representation of the many foster children in need of homes.

“We wanted to respect the little souls in foster care in Missouri, and so we thought a good way to do it would be through shoes,” she said.

Alonso said the event was designed to encourage discussion of the statistics surrounding youths in the foster care system. Children can linger in the system for more than 18 months, and sometimes even years, she said.

With the help of StorageMart, the organization began soliciting donations about a month ago. Since then, it has received nearly 5,000 shoes from donors in Jefferson City and Columbia.

Alonso hopes the organization will reach its goal of 10,000 shoes — roughly the number of children in foster care — next year.

The shoes will be donated to Hope for Caribbean Kids Inc., a not-for-profit group that will collaborate with the Shoeman Water Project to build schools in Haiti and fund water wells in Haiti and Kenya.

In future legislative sessions, Alonso hopes to see lawmakers increase funding for programs and organizations that assist foster children, like the Transitions program, which helps foster children “aging out” of the system to graduate from high school and pursue higher education. The program does not currently receive any state funding, she said.

“Our hope is to get the support and programming that we need,” Alonso said.

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