Raising children is a great undertaking, one that requires patience, wisdom, and sacrifice. However, being a parent is one of the most rewarding and important things a person can do. Bringing up children and helping them become happy, productive adults gives a sense of pride and a feeling of accomplishment unlike anything else on Earth. As we get older, I think most of us come to realize how much our parents did to mold us into the people we are, and how important that bond is.

Some kids don’t have a parent to fall back on. Through no fault of their own, they are left in the foster care system, sometimes shuffled between multiple homes through their childhood. Foster parents play a significant role in caring for these kids in times of need, but children thrive on the stability a permanent home provides.

Adoption is, of course, the ultimate goal for most foster kids. It’s also the goal for many people seeking to become parents. In Missouri, the children’s division oversees the state adoption program and administers our adoption services. The general requirements to be an adoptive parent are to be at least 21 years of age, be in good physical and mental health, and have a stable income. Potential adoptive parents also must undergo a child abuse or neglect screening and a criminal background check. It is a common misconception that a person must own their own home or that adoptive parents must be a married couple. Neither of these are requirements.

After the initial screening, a prospective adoptive parent will go through free training and assessments to help prepare them for parenting, and to help potentially make the best match when adopting. A 27-hour program called Specialized Training, Assessment, Resources, Support and Skills (STARS) develops skills and knowledge in prospective parents. It focuses on protecting and nurturing children, meeting their developmental needs and supporting existing relationships with siblings or other relatives. There is also training inCPR, first aid, and medication management.

Another step toward adoption is a home study. The home study is an assessment performed by a social worker examining the prospective parent’s family life. People can feel nervous about this process, as it feels as though a stranger is judging your fitness to be a parent. However, the social workers want to help these parents and ensure they have all the tools they need to be ready to adopt a child.

There are programs that we’ve put in place to help encourage adoption in Missouri. Since the 1980s, we’ve had a program that gives up to $10,000 in tax credits to someone who adopts a special needs child. In 2021, we expanded the tax credit to give up to $10,000 to anyone who adopts a child in Missouri as well as up to $10,000 to any business that contributes to an employee adopting a child.

This year, the Missouri Senate is considering expanding the adoption tax credit further and prioritizing adoption tax credits for special needs children. The Missouri House of Representatives is also considering a similar bill.

Adoption is a difficult thing, for both the prospective parents and the children looking for a home. At the same time, it is one of the most important things we can do, not just for those people who want a child of their own, but for our most vulnerable and often marginalized children. I’m proud of the help we’ve given to create families here in Missouri, and I’m always open to new ways to assist kids in finding a home. They deserve all the help we can give them.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter of Missouri stands with four generations of Bernskoetters, including his dad, Charlie; his son, Brian; and Brian’s son, John
Sen. Mike Bernskoetter stands with four generations of Bernskoetters, including his dad, Charlie; his son, Brian; and Brian’s son, John