After tragic murder of 3-year-old KCK girl, many asking how they can help at-risk children

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The tragic murder of 3-year-old Olivia Jansen has many confused, upset, and feeling unsure how to give back.

Around 6,000 kids in the greater Kansas City metro area go through the family court system each year. Advocates say there are many ways you can help at-risk children now, and for free.

President & CEO of Jackson County CASA, Angie Blumel, said it doesn’t take a fancy degree or specialization to help a child in need. You just need a little time and a big heart.

“I think it’s natural when there’s a tragic and terrible incident in the community people wonder how can I help, what can I do,” Blumel said.

RELATED: Father and girlfriend charged in death of 3-year-old Olivia Jansen in Wyandotte County

A CASA is a court-appointed advocate for children. They are volunteers who take free training classes over a few weeks and are assigned a child.

Through the program they become a sworn member of the Jackson County Court and work with the child’s social worker, family and lawyer to make sure all of the child’s needs are met.

“Children with CASA volunteers the research tells us that they fare better,” Blumel said. “They’re able to achieve safety and permanency more quickly. They’re less likely to experience re-abuse. So we know being a CASA volunteer — it works. It works for our kids.”

KVC Kansas is the largest placement agency in the state. They sponsor around 900 foster homes in Kansas and provide assistance for 7,000 kids in out of home care. Megan Maciel is the Director of Recruitment and Communication for KVC.

“Part of our preservice training that you take before you become a foster parent is to learn specifically about the needs of children who have been impacted by trauma, and to learn to work with those children, and to learn if foster parenting is right for you,” Maciel said.

Maciel said many of KVC Kansas’ foster homes are at capacity, and they need people to sign up and become foster parents.

“Maybe you just want to foster for respite — so just take children for short times, maybe you’re interested in fostering a child for many months or up to a year, or maybe some people who are interested in adoption of fostering becomes an opportunity for them as well,” Maciel said.

To become an advocate or foster parent is easier than you might think. Both organizations offer training completely online and for free.

Maciel said there are common misconceptions about foster parenting. She said the most important qualification to become a foster parent is that you are an adult. Single people can become foster parents, along with people who already have children in the home.

“We have incredible foster parents who have several children in their homes, and so that is definitely not a limitation,” Maciel said. “Another challenge we hear is from our LGBTQ community. They can definitely become foster parents, and we encourage them to reach out.”

Tahir Atwater is the director of donor & volunteer engagement for Jackson County CASA. He works directly with volunteers and said people find becoming a CASA is incredibly rewarding.

“These kids are incredibly resilient, they’re incredibly intelligent,” Atwater said. “They’re going to go on and do great things, but they need some help along the way like everyone does. Every single time we have a volunteer that signs up, that volunteer is saying I see you, and I want to be a part of your life.”

Blumel said due to COVID-19, child abuse calls are down, but that doesn’t mean the need isn’t vital. She said once children are seen regularly again by mandatory reporters, their numbers will go up. 

“We need community members to become volunteers and support our kids and lift up their voices to ensure that they have safety and permanency in their lives,” Blumel said.

She said only about half the kids in care in Jackson County currently have an advocate. To become a CASA, you are only required to see or connect with your child about once a month.

Interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent in Missouri?

  • Cornerstones of Care specializes in Standard and Career Foster Licenses at  1-855-SRV-KIDS (855-778-5437) or visit their website.
  • Crittenton Children’s Center (Saint Lukes) focuses on medical homes, homes that can accommodate sibling groups, and homes for older youth (age 12 and up).
    • If you are interested in learning more about this organization please reach out to Virginia Fatseas at (816) 986-5209
  • Missouri Alliance offers elevated needs training (Level A & B) to our Resource Families.  They also train our foster parents in TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) as well as SOS (Signs of Safety).
    • If you are interested in learning more about this organization please reach out to Karie Scott-Roark email: KRoark@MA-CF.org.
  • Great Circle Behavioral Health for Children & Families does foster care licensing for prospective foster parents.
    • If you are interested in learning more about this organization please reach out to Jaqueline Brown at (816) 255-1503 or Jacqueline.Brown@greatcircle.org

Interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent in Kansas?

Want to see more children who are looking for a family?

Want to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children in the metro?

According to CASA’s website, a court appointed special advocate make a life-changing different for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Each volunteer is appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in court.

Their volunteers help judges develop a fuller picture of each child’s life. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child.

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