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Kansas foster care advocates host gathering

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Advocates for the more than 5,600 Kansas children in the state's foster care system gathered at the Statehouse on Monday to raise awareness and support for youth in need of good homes.

The event, the goal of which sought to increase awareness about foster care and help children find homes, began with Gov. Sam Brownback signing a proclamation marking May as Foster Care Month in Kansas.

Gina Meier Hummel of the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services said the number of children entering foster care was increasing, attributing that to more families dealing with substance abuse.

"It's a never-ending need," she said.

Advocates put on an informational fair, which was coordinated by the Kansas Department for Children and Family Services. Blue wristbands were distributed to show support for foster children and efforts to find them homes.

The agenda also included remarks by Kansas lawmakers and members of groups that help children and families with foster care and adoption services.

Christian Sauerman, a former foster child and member of the Kansas Youth Advisory Council, said there were a lot of stereotypes still associated with being in foster care. He coped with his mother's mental health issues -- which caused his own -- before he was finally placed in foster care at age 16.

Sauerman, now 19, is studying at Washburn University in Topeka and encourages other foster children to focus on their education. He also said better communication was needed within the system between children, the court system and others.

"There are a lot of issues. I encouraged them to try to have a better outlook for themselves and get them to graduate," he said.

Meier Hummel said that, in addition to those in foster care, there are approximately 990 other children who were awaiting adoption through the state. Half of those children have a family that is moving toward adopting them.