A long walk: South Hutch man calling attention to adoption, foster care
Rev. Glenn J. Koster, Sr. of South Hutchinson is accustomed to long walks, both literally and figuratively.
In his younger days, he had a long walk as he searched for his forever home — first adopted at age six before finding himself in a need of a new family.
"Thirteen months later I was pulled out of that home as a victim of emotional and sexual abuse," Koster said. "I entered the foster care system and lost a foster father to a heart attack while I was living with him. It took three weeks to find a place to move me to. I was readopted when I was 10."
In 2018 he started a walk across the nation to raise awareness and support for foster care and adoption.
"Our foster care system is in crisis for many different reasons. Yet, the reality is that there is still a dramatic need but homes are in certain areas are desperately in short supply," Koster said.
That walk was halted when his support vehicle broke down. In 2019 he walked again, completing 4,310 miles in about four months.
This year he has started a new walk — planning to walk in each of the 105 Kansas Counties over the course of the next 18 months. April 19 was day one, as he walked from McPherson to Newton via Old 81, marking McPherson and Harvey County off his lists.
He is again trying to raise awareness for adoption and foster care.
"I am a double product of that system, having been adopted in 1962 and again in 1965," Koster said.
Hundreds without adoptive homes
According to Adopt Kansas Kids, about 500 Kansas children are currently in foster care waiting to be adopted. The children are of all ages, races and ethnicities, and from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The majority of waiting children are age 8 or older, part of a sibling group of three or more, or have special needs.
Anyone interested in becoming an adoptive parent may visit the Adopt Kansas Kids website at www.adoptkskids.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Koster would consider becoming an adoption or foster parenting himself — if he could. He is very upfront about why it's not an option for him, admitting mistakes of his past.
"I became the spitting image of my birth father in that I am a recovering alcoholic, sober since 1989, and a spousal abuser being violent free since 1989," Koster said. "Because of those two things, I cannot be an adoptive parent or a foster parent."
What he can do is walk, and call attention to the children who are in need of a new home like he did. In Harvey County, there are currently 52 children in an out-of-home placement, according to statistics from the Kansas Department for Children and Families. In McPherson County, that number is 51.
According to Darren Busick, a recruiter for St. Francis, the largest need for help in the region is Reno County, namely because of the population base that is there.
"There is a very high need, one of our biggest needs is for kids 12 and older," Busick said. "We need foster homes for these kids."
He said there is also need for respite foster homes — a place for foster children to go when their foster family needs a break — and church groups to "walk beside" foster families to offer support.
"There are ways that people can get involved that is not fostering," Busick said.
Support for children, and their parents
Children can be removed from a home for a number of reasons — but the constant is when that happens there needs to be support available. Koster said that while it would be wonderful for children to return home to birth parents, that is not always possible.
And he said, there needs to more supports for both children and parents.
"The focus must be on trying to provide the support systems necessary to keep kids in their natural families – but this often takes mentors for both the parents and the children" Koster said. "When a child has to be pulled from a home, they need to be placed in a safe environment with a primary goal of getting them back home if at all possible. If they cannot return home safely, then every effort must be made to keep in a safe environment until they either age out or can be permanently adopted. Should they age out, we must do everything possible to ensure their success in life."
April 19 he started at 7 a.m. at the McPherson County Courthouse, setting EmberHope in Newton as his destination. He passed Hesston at about 2:30 p.m. and reached EmberHope at about 4 p.m.
He has worked with St. Francis in the past, performing a 24-hour walk at the Fairfield school district last fall with the support of St. Francis. Busick was able to participate in that walk..
"I got to walk with him for a little bit," Busick said. "[Koster] is a really neat guy."
"It is my honest belief that no matter the circumstances, everyone can do something," Koster said. " Everyone can either become a mentor, a respite parent, a temporary foster parent, an adoptive parent, a financial donor, a champion of the children (or the cause), or simply a prayer warrior!. Don’t let others be the only ones involved."
Additional walks that Koster currently has planned are from Wichita (Sedgwick County) to Hutchinson (Reno County) on Mother’s Day weekend, Baxter Springs (Cherokee County) / Pittsburg (Crawford County) / Fort Scott (Bourbon County) June 28-29, and Dodge City (Ford County) to Garden City (Finney County) on Father’s Day weekend.