Archive for Sunday, December 25, 2011

StopGap aids transition from foster care to adulthood

Justine Burton, Lawrence, founded StopGap, which assists kids aging out of foster care. Burton works out of her home, where she is photographed with her dog, Grizzly, Friday, Dec. 16, 2011.

Justine Burton, Lawrence, founded StopGap, which assists kids aging out of foster care. Burton works out of her home, where she is photographed with her dog, Grizzly, Friday, Dec. 16, 2011.

December 25, 2011


How to help

• Volunteers are needed for life skills training courses, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning Jan. 18.

• The organization seeks financial donations and will host a fundraiser from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Jan. 18 at 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence.

• For more information, visit, or call 785-331-3545.

Lawrence resident Emily Jacobs, now 22, spent her four high school years in the foster care system, leaving when she “aged out” upon graduation.

She moved out on her own, but it’s been a tough adjustment.

“Supporting yourself isn’t easy,” she said.

Jacobs has been working and going to Johnson County Community College on and off for the past few years. She said life’s little setbacks have thrown her off course a time or two.

“There just wasn’t anyone there for me if my car broke down,” she said.

More than 1,000 Kansas teens between the ages of 16 and 18 were in foster care this past year because they were abused or neglected.

Such teens can come with a variety of challenges that could make life outside of state custody difficult.

They often have little work history, poor family support, no credit history and psychological issues resulting from abuse.

That’s why former social worker Justine Burton founded the nonprofit organization StopGap Inc. in 2008. After a few years of building support, the group will host its first series of courses for teens in foster care who are getting ready for life on their own.

The five-week course, for those 16 to 18, will focus on topics like job skills, financial planning, education and a variety of other life skills.

The program is needed, said Diana Frederick, executive director of the Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates.

“We definitely see this as an area of concern,” said Frederick, who works with teens through her program. “That’s a very young age to be thrust on your own.”

A 2010 study organized by the University of Chicago, the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Function of Former Foster Youth, shows that teens who age out of foster care do much worse than other young adults in a variety of measures.

For instance, former foster kids had a 7 percent chance of ending up in jail by the time they are 24, compared with fewer than 1 percent of those who weren’t placed in foster care. And a quarter of former foster care kids spend some time homeless as they get older.

Burton, who runs the nonprofit on a shoestring budget out of her home, said she’d like to reverse those trends and see former foster care children become stable and productive members of the community. In the coming years, Burton said, StopGap will try to establish a transitional living program in the area that could house former foster care kids.

“There has to be something a little bit better for these kids,” she said.


Dianne50 2 years, 3 months ago

CASAs think they are all that and in some cases they help and in some cases they hurt. In CA with AB12 and AB212 foster children and probation wards will be able to continue to receive money up to the age of 21. They will be identifed as non minor dependents. We need to teach them how to be more self sufficient and responsible from a young age unfortunately many of the regulations of CCL who licenses foster homes and group homes makes it nearly impossible.


Tongie_soccer 2 years, 3 months ago

Alceste - you are a presumtious little angry peson aren't you? :-) We started fostering because my husband was adopted out of the fostercare system and we wanted to help someone else like he was helped. We are agnostic and all payments we received were put into a savings account for the children when they left our home. Soooooo....any more false acusations about why we chose to foster or does that clear it up for you?

While I personally can not speak to anyone's level of pay I do agree it is safe to bet Mr Simms could take a pay cut without much skin off his nose, but any agency state or private will suffer the same top heaviness. Of all the agencies I've worked with in the state KVC has by far been the best to work with as far on the hands on staff (case managers, family support workes, etc). As for CASA - in my experience some are wonderful advocates and some are just pains in the a**.

I wonder Alcest what your personal beef with CASA is - this is not the first time I've read your rants against them. Were you a foster child? Did you have a child in care? Did you apply to be an advocate and were rejected? I prefer to not make wild assumtions...


raiderssb 2 years, 3 months ago

Justine is doing a fantastic job with a population that really has had no place to turn. It isn't about CASA, or not. Why this information was the emphasis over what Justine is doing is absurd. Justine's efforts have been deep, caring, and sincere for years. Let's help her, help these young people without getting caught up in all the reasons these young people, may or may not, a hand up.


amy2740kansas 2 years, 3 months ago

There are two basic reasons, like it or not, why people become foster parents: MONEY or religion. Love and kindness, each, are a VERY distant third.....

Such all or nothing thinking Alceste. I'm also wondering who conducted this study you quote re: the CASA system and when it was carried out.

Great work Justine!!!


Tongie_soccer 2 years, 3 months ago

I think it is very easy to blame "the system" but we also have to look at other factors. I have been a foster parent and I know KVC specifically use to have an independant living program that helped children transition to adulthood. That program was all but eliminated when the governement cut the contract to the bare bones several years ago. Case Managers who truely do care about their clients are trying to do more and more with less and less (this is the Kansas way these days isn't? Schools don't need money, social service agencies don't need money...all that matters is that I don't have to pay taxes so I can buy my $5 cup of coffee from Starbucks). Beyond lack of funds you also have to look at the children who come into foster care themselves, especially as teens. To be frank young women like Ms. Jacobs are the exception. Many teens who enter foster care as teens do so beause of their own issues and not ones related to their families. This article really doesn't touch on the sometimes extreme mental health issues these children have - antisocial personalities, boarderlin personalities, oppositional deffiance, drug addiction. No matter how much support they get in foster care or from their bio families, some of this kids are just destine for legal and life struggles. I think the writter of this article has the cause and effect backwards - fostercare does not cause the problems, kids with these problems are just more likely to end up in fostercare. I do applaud this StopGap program and wish it all the success and luck in the world. Maybe they can make a difference.


sunny 2 years, 3 months ago

In foster care or not, it is difficult for ANY 18 year old to be out in the real world. Stop teaching them how to receive a hand out!


ForThePeople 2 years, 3 months ago

Jane, I currently do adult foster care with developmentally disabled adults, so I'm not in the position to really take on a teenager at this time in my life. But I would like to get involved, if nothing else, than to volunteer in any way I can, to help ensure the success of Stopgap.
I would also agree that in general, the system does not prepare kids for what happens when they age out. I understand Alcestes points, and can say in my own personal case, I was very frustrated as a child, that not enough effort was made to reunite me with biological family, and I spent my entire childhood being shuffled through one foster home to another. I do feel that in many instances, social workers do what "they think" is best for the child in the moment, without taking into consideration the bigger picture of what happens years down the road.


Jane 2 years, 3 months ago

Could it be that CASA and the present foster care system are not preparing kids for adult life? I think that is what Alceste is saying. It is great that Justine is helping after a kid ages out but wouldn't it be better to address the system that isn't preparing the kids in the first place?

ForThePeople, are you presently or planning to take on one of these young adults to assist them in making the transition to independence or do you just want to see this program become available in communities across the country? People help people, through programs, but more importantly through one-on-one relationships with each other.


ForThePeople 2 years, 3 months ago

I totally agree with you Deb! I am very impressed with what Justine is trying to do. As a former foster child myself, I know how difficult it can be for kiddos aging out of the system and feeling like they are totally alone. I was lucky thirty years ago and was "adopted" in every sense, but the paperwork, by a wonderful family after being emancipated at 16. But many of our foster kids are not so lucky and as a result of their circumstances are also not emotionally prepared for the realities of adulthood. Things are way different nowadays and with the economy being what it is on top of the other issues these kids face, life can look pretty daunting.
Thank you Justine for making this available and I will be contacting you soon, to see what I can do to assist in the success of this amazing resource. I would love to see this become available in communities throughout the country.


Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago

Pardon me, but HOW Pollyannish! No wonder the foster care system is failing, given you own the children are not ready when they age out and you're one of the "team members" who are charged with getting' em ready!? Why the heck aren't they? Where's that Independent Living Plan which is SUPPOSED to be an integral aspect of that "service plan"?

What? The "sacred cow" of CASA is not open to examination for what it really does? Open your eyes "debengstrom" and stop being an apologist for a bankrupt system.


Deb Engstrom 2 years, 3 months ago

I'm not sure what good it does to bash CASA. The problem is that when kids in foster care reach the age of 18, they are "on their own". Many of the people now in the criminal justice system were former foster kids who aged out. As a foster parent myself, I know that they are not ready to leave at 18 and should not have to. I have former foster kids move back home all the time (just like bio kids do) and one still lives here at 29. It's amazing to me how the most vulnerable (there's a reason why they went into foster care int he first place) are expected to make it completely on their own. This lady recognizes a problem and is doing something to fix it. Kudos!!!


Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago


Rather than respond to the findings of its own study by cleaning up its act, CASA tried first to spin the results and then to bury them. Youth Today concluded that CASA’s spin “can border on duplicity.”

In short, CASA is one more thumb tilting the scales of justice against families.

Heck yes the program is very much needed due to incredible failures of Diana Frederick, executive director of the Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates and the program.

SRS is required by Federal law to build into each and every "individualized service plan" for teens in foster care, once said "teen" hits the age of 16, and Indepdendent Living Plan. Whoa. Wait a moment.....that's right.....I forgot......foster care services were privatized in Kansas many years back to line the pockets of poverty pimps such as the guy B. Wayne Sims who dominates the Kaw Valley Center and also because the State was doing such a horrendous job itself: Losiing track of children in care; children in care being more abused by the foster care givers than they were by the errant family members in the first place; etc., etc., etc.

A program that provides the very services Uncle Sam requires for those young adults in the "system" at age 16 and beyond is long past due in this state. REDUCE the amount of money going to B. Wayne Sims and his counter parts; abolish the sacred cow hegemony of the CASA....expose it for what it is.....and let's do right by the little child "in care"; for:

"I and the public know What all schoolchildren learn, Those to whom evil is done Do evil in return."

September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden


Alceste 2 years, 3 months ago

Here we CASA in a nutshell:

●Throughout the country, local CASA chapters continue to state or imply that they are “a child’s voice” in court. They are not. A CASA advocates for whatever the CASA thinks is best for the child. So if the child desperately wants to go home, but the CASA thinks that’s a bad idea, the CASA pushes as hard as she can against what the child wants; the child effectively is silenced. (While it is much less likely to happen, if a child wants to stay in foster care and the CASA wants the child to return home, again, the child is silenced – and that is equally wrong.)

Children do need a voice in court – a real one. From the age a child is old enough to express a rational preference she or he should get a lawyer to fight for that preference. That doesn’t mean children always should get what they want. But the best way to find out what truly is best for a child is if everyone has an articulate advocate making his or her case. Deciding what is best is what we pay judges for. It’s time we stopped ceding that role to amateurs.

CASA is one of the larger fronts as it is a GIANT aspect of the problem with respect to the distorted "Court" system, families, children, removals, foster care, etc. CASA ain't no panacea and has been allowed to grow and mutate to the point of obscenity. LOTS of Jim Jones like Kool-Aid being drunk around these here parts. Read the truth about CASA and what a joke of an operation it is here: (if you dare, download and read the complete report here: , bearing in mind this report is one that was ordained by CASA itself and then BURIED because CASA didn't like what was found.... )

Here are some basic "bullet points" to wet your whistle: an evaluation commissioned by the National CASA Association itself. As Youth Today noted, the report “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers.”

●The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.

●The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety – so all that extra foster care is for nothing. (The study specifically controlled for CASA’s all purpose excuse for this – the claim that CASAs handle the most difficult cases.)

●The study also found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is Black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. (The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases in general as the organization’s p.r. might lead one to believe. CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and only 2.67 hours per month on cases involving Black children). (Continued below):


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