SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- State officials say they're confident that private agencies, working with recruiters and trainers from the Division of Family Services, can find enough foster homes across Missouri to make up the current shortage.
Child advocates aren't so sure.
The state awarded contracts for the work on Jan. 14, after more than a two-month delay. But this time, the state is paying less for the work and using fewer agencies -- 23 compared with 71 in past years.
That leads some child advocates to wonder whether fewer recruiters will translate into fewer recruits.
There are some 12,500 Missouri foster children but only 2,700 homes and facilities, only some of which are designed for multiple children.
State officials awarded contracts based on cost, experience, expertise and method of performance, said Laura Ortmeyer of the Office of Administration. The contracts, totaling $3 million, run through June 2004.
Missouri also recently received a $900,000 federal grant for a three-year statewide recruitment project for foster and adoptive parents.
The state began hiring private agencies in 1999 to recruit and train foster parents because state employees couldn't fill the need.