Owensboro’s newest therapeutic foster care agency, StepStone Family and Youth Services, plans to open its doors to the public by Aug. 31. Representatives with the agency spent Friday afternoon handing out free school supplies and Donatos Pizza coupons to children and families.
The need for more foster parents across the state of Kentucky looms large and persistent. According to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kentucky ranks ninth in the nation for foster kids living in group homes or institutions.
In Kentucky’s Two Rivers Region, which encompasses Daviess County along with a number of surrounding counties, 1,379 children currently reside in active placements. The majority of those children fall between the ages of 6-12 (26%), followed closely by children who are 12-18 years of age (23%).
Foster Parent Recruiter and Trainer Alora Gaskill said Daviess County falls into the statewide need for more foster parents.
“With COVID, it’s easier to brush abuse and neglect under the rug. There are risk factors for abused and neglected kids stuck at home, and COVID-19 amplifies those factors,” Gaskill said. “There seems to be some underreporting this summer because of that.”
Normally, the average number of children in Kentucky’s foster care system sits around 9,000. Gaskill said that number rose to 10,000 in July. The higher numbers in Kentucky are largely related to higher drug use and poverty, she said.
At StepStone — located at 2601 West Parrish Ave. — Gaskill and her team lead prospective foster parents through the application and approval process, while also providing therapeutic treatment for those impacted by their foster care experience along the way.
Before expanding to Owensboro, StepStone set up locations in a number of other cities, including Bowling Green, Morehead, Louisville and Benton. Gaskill said Owensboro was “that untapped market.”
Though StepStone is a private therapeutic foster care agency, the staff works with the state to provide foster homes for children and they abide by all state regulations in doing so.
And though it will be another week until the doors physically open, StepStone said they’d already begun talking to and certifying parents in the area for foster care.
“We wanted to show that we’re willing to help the community and ready to serve them,” Gaskill said of Friday’s back-to-school event. “We are in need of homes to help Kentucky’s youth and have a desire for StepStone Owensboro to grow to meet this need in our region.”
Those interested in becoming foster parents can call 270-691-1090 to get the process started.