"It's exciting to see how Louisiana Fosters has progressed since last year's launch, growing from a hope and a challenge to a thriving community of Louisianans with arms stretched wide around our state's foster parents and the children in their care."

Expanding the network of community and faith-based supports for foster parents is the focus of the second annual Louisiana Fosters event, hosted at the Governor's Mansion today (Friday, Sept. 21) by First Lady Donna Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

The summit will feature guest speaker Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center, and a panel discussion on community and faith-based partnerships with the state's foster care system.

Panelists will be Carlita Babineaux, chairperson of the "I AM" (Increasing Adoptive Measures) Foster Care Support Ministry at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Lafayette; Kim Bigler, director of James Store House in Covington; Anna Palmer, executive director of CrossroadsNOLA; Glenn Rountree, Open Table mission leader for First Baptist Church in Monroe; and Tony Streetman, founder of Unite Ministries in Shreveport. Kim Carver, foster/adoptive dad, president of the Louisiana Institute for Children in Families and founding member of CrossroadsNOLA, will serve as moderator.

"It's exciting to see how Louisiana Fosters has progressed since last year's launch, growing from a hope and a challenge to a thriving community of Louisianans with arms stretched wide around our state's foster parents and the children in their care," Edwards said. "These are Louisiana's children - our children - and we must do everything we can to ensure their future."

Louisiana Fosters is a statewide network linking government, faith, nonprofit, business and service communities in support of foster parents and children. Since Edwards launched the initiative in August 2017, dozens of nonprofit and faith-based groups, large and small, across the state have stepped in to provide the kinds of resources foster parents need to ensure stability and guidance for the children and youth in their care.

"There's still a lot of room at the table and many more foster families and children to help," Edwards said. "We're hoping to encourage more partnerships in every region of the state."

The Louisiana Fosters network builds upon DCFS's implementation of the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI), an approach to foster care that emphasizes teamwork among foster parents, birth parents and agency staff.

"The most important partners in the foster care system are the foster parents, and yet their needs are often lost in the demands of providing critical support to the children and youth entrusted to their care," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. "The goal of Louisiana Fosters is to improve the supports available to these caregivers through partnerships between the community and the foster care system. Together, we are building the village our foster parents need to care for our children."

Attendees will include Court Appointed Special Advocates, judges, foster parents, DCFS caseworkers, teachers, school counselors, faith leaders, Louisiana Fosters network partners and business leaders from across the state. Each will be asked to draw upon their background and training to help find solutions to issues pertaining to foster youth and their caregivers.

"Having such a diverse group of committed stakeholders at the table will give us a broad range of perspectives on the issues our foster parents and children face and ways we might go about solving them," Walters said.

The event is sponsored by Casey Family Programs, the nation's largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building communities of hope for America's children and families.

For more information about Louisiana Fosters, including a list of resources available for foster parents, visit www.LouisianaFosters.la.gov.

Contributed by the La. Dept. of Children and Family Services