Every day in Central Missouri, many grandparents and other relatives/family friends step up to care for children when the parents can’t. So we stepped up for them.
In June, we offered our first-ever K.I.N. Conference. It was a chance to give kinship providers both information and relaxation – essentially a three-day conference/vacation, with food, lodging and child care provided. Best of all, CMFCAA picked up the tab, providing everything free to attendees.
Several hundred people came to the event, held June 13-15 at the Lodge of the Four Seasons overlooking Lake of the Ozarks. On-site catering included meals such as chicken strips and burgers for the kids and sea bass and filet mignon for the adults. Both the adults and children were treated to entertainment from a pair of magicians.
But the heart of the conference was the information provided by about 20 experts in various aspects of kinship care and related topics.
Sherry Moller with the Division of Family Services said the state gives more services to kinship providers than it did 25 years ago. It was through advocating for changes in state law that helped put kinship providers on equal footing with other foster parents.
“I’m excited we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” she said.
She said research shows that when children can’t stay with their parents, they do best when they’re able to stay with grandparents and other relatives. “I can’t tell you ‘thank you’ enough, because it really changes that child,” she said.
Attendees said they appreciated the conference as well as the ability to connect with other kinship providers.
Rick and Lori Cardoza of Ozark said the speakers were excellent.
“They were connected personally,” Rick Cardoza said. “This isn’t just bland information. It’s personal experience combined with practical knowledge.”
Six weeks before the conference, the couple had started caring for three children, ages 12, 14 and 16.
“It’s good to have this information up front to avoid making mistakes,” Lori Cardoza said.
The event was such a success that we’re already looking to sponsor a second annual K.I.N. Conference next year. Stay tuned for details.