Cornerstones of Care is dedicated to partnering for safe and healthy communities by leveraging decades of expertise and a certification in trauma-informed care to provide an array of quality prevention, treatment and support services to children and families. We strive to affect positive change, give a stronger voice to those in need, raise awareness in our communities and deliver a fully integrated approach to care.

Recent News Coverage

Cornerstones of Care to Host "Foster Care Information Exchange" Event for Prospective Foster Parents in Kansas and Missouri

May 9, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

If you’ve ever considered providing a safe and loving home for one of the many children in foster care, now might be the perfect time to take the first step toward becoming a licensed foster parent. 

Prospective foster parents in Kansas and Missouri are invited to attend our Foster Care Information Exchange event on Tuesday, May 28, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. The free event is scheduled from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. and aims to provide valuable insight and guidance for those interested in foster care. 

Drinks and appetizers will be provided as attendees explore a variety of table topics related to foster care in Kansas and Missouri. The evening will begin with a brief 10-minute presentation at 5:30 p.m., after which participants are encouraged to join and leave table discussions as needed. Foster care experts from Cornerstones of Care and current foster parents will be on hand to answer questions and facilitate the discussions.

This event coincides with the release of Foster Careland: The Ultimate Adventure, a self-guided, interactive digital resource designed to take prospective foster parents through the step-by-step process of becoming licensed. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about this innovative tool and leave with clear action steps and information to begin their journey as foster parents.

Whether you're curious about foster care or ready to start the process, the Foster Care Information Exchange provides a casual learning environment to gather information and connect with experts and others considering foster care.

For more information about the event and Cornerstones of Care, please visit our website or contact Don't miss this opportunity to explore the world of foster care and discover how you can make a difference in the lives of children in Kansas and Missouri.


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New Foster Care Resource Brings Adventure and Transparency to the Licensure Process

May 2, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

In celebration of National Foster Care Month, Cornerstones of Care is releasing Foster Careland: The Ultimate Adventure, a self-guided, interactive digital resource that takes prospective foster parents step-by-step through the process of becoming a licensed foster parent.

Designed to look like a vintage video game, Foster Careland is formatted into five modules, each packed with essential information for foster parents as they move towards licensure: Getting Started, Training, Paperwork, Home Assessment, and Licensing.

Each module also features a “Did You Know…” section to answer questions and address common misconceptions about parenting kids in foster care.

“We created a resource for foster parents that breaks down the steps towards licensure in a fun and engaging way,” said Merle Bowers, Resource Family Advocate. “We want to make the overall process more accessible and empower foster parents to be successful.”

Merle is a well-known figure among Kansas foster families and has been hosting bi-monthly foster care information sessions since January, aiming to recruit more foster parents. Across the country, the demand for foster care significantly outpaces the availability of qualified foster parents.

Merle explains that the paperwork and training requirements can sometimes deter potential foster parents, and that’s what Foster Careland hopes to tackle.

“I don’t sugarcoat it,” said Merle. “There is a bit of paperwork involved, but we want you on the team, and we’ll help you get it done.”

In Foster Careland’s five modules, participants are assisted by a caricature of Merle, aptly named Merlen, who narrates each stage of the journey alongside an advocate. At the end of each module, Merlen presents an award to acknowledge the foster parents’ progress on the path to licensure. This playful approach not only keeps the process engaging but also provides a tangible way to track their success.

“We want families to know that we’re there for them and that a pile of papers and other requirements shouldn’t be what stands in the way of creating a safe and loving home for a child,” said Merle.

Foster Careland is now available to the public on our website. For those wanting to start the process of becoming a foster parent, we recommend that you fill out an interest form to get started.

Cornerstones of Care is hosting a Foster Care Information Exchange on Tuesday, May 28, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Mingle with other prospective foster parents, speak directly with members of our Kansas and Missouri foster care teams, and learn the information you need to make an informed decision about your future as a foster parent.

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Tee It Up Fundraiser Offers Entertainment and Thrill for Golfers and Non-Golfers Alike

April 30, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Tee It Up Fore the Kids, an annual fundraiser for Cornerstones of Care, takes over Topgolf in Overland Park, Kan., on Thursday, May 9, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. to raise money for children and families impacted by trauma.

Part entertainment center, part high-tech driving range, TopGolf allows guests to choose from more than a dozen creative games to play in a climate-controlled, open-air golfing bay. Despite all the event has to offer, prospective attendees still might assume that this event is only for older golf enthusiasts who want to practice their swing.

Event organizers want to change your mind about that.

Aaron Dollinger’s first time at Tee It Up was in 2023. He and his wife, Erin, both in their 30s, purchased several bays at Top Golf to enjoy the evening with friends and introduce them to Cornerstones of Care.

“The opportunity to bring our friends together to support a great organization is always a win for my wife and me,” said Aaron. The couple first connected to Cornerstones of Care as volunteers for NASB’s North Pole and have purchased gifts for kids in foster care for the past five years.

“We love the opportunity to give to an organization that works with largely underserved populations in such a meaningful and effective way,” said Aaron.

In addition to three hours of playing time, Tee It Up attendees get exclusive access to an open bar, dinner, and bar snacks for the entire evening. Cornerstones of Care also hosts a raffle and other games to give attendees the chance to win prizes.

While Aaron is a self-described “big golfer,” he admits that the event is just as fun for his friends who don’t spend their Saturdays on the green.

“You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy the event,” said Aaron. “For me, it’s less about competing than just being with friends. It’s a great opportunity to support a fantastic organization and spend time with friends while doing good.”

As excitement builds for this year’s Tee It Up fundraiser, it’s clear that this annual event is more than just a round of golf, but an evening of entertainment that you must experience for yourself. Sponsorship opportunities are still available for purchase, which include reserved bays, food and drink tickets, and special promotional benefits.

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Five-Minute Interview With A Plant Sale Youth

April 23, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Shoppers can purchase their petunias, peppers, and parsley plants at the Thyme for Kids Plant Sale at the Ozanam Campus greenhouse on April 26 and 27. Proceeds from the two-day annual event go to Build Trybe Seed to Plate and horticulture programming at the Ozanam Campus, providing youth the opportunity to partner with peers to plant, grow, and sell a wide variety of plants.

Expressive Therapist Megan Sperry leads the planning and execution of the plant sale and helped us connect with *Elijah, a ninth-grader at the Ozanam Day Treatment School about what attendees can expect.

How have you been helping to prepare things for the Plant Sale?

We have been putting plants in pots, like bigger pots, starting plants from seed. We’ve watered the plants and organized the plants to where they are supposed to be.

What plants can people buy at the Plant Sale?

There’s a lot of plants! Herbs, geraniums, perennials, annuals, tomatoes, and peppers, and lots of hanging baskets.

Which plants are your favorite and why?

The plants I like are herbs. Especially rosemary. Rosemary has a strong scent when you touch the leaves.

What will your job be on the day of the event?

What I would be doing is helping people pick out plants and help customers carry plants to their cars.

What is something new that you’ve learned about growing plants this year?

I’ve learned there are so many species of plants. And I’ve learned about what they are used for and what kind of light or water they prefer.

What are you most looking forward to about the Plant Sale?

Well, I’m most looking forward to seeing a lot of people and them buying plants from us.

Why do you think people should buy their plants at the Thyme for Kids Plant Sale?

It benefits our program. We’ve been working really hard since January to prepare for the sale. Plants can help in a lot of ways. Plants give me a sense of joy.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Sponsorship opportunities for the 2024 Thyme for Kids Plant Sale are still available. If you’d like to become a sponsor or make a donation, learn more on our events page.

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New Strategic Plan Leans Into Prevention

April 16, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Beginning this year, Cornerstones of Care embarks on a new strategic plan designed to assess our resources and move toward prevention by providing the best possible care with the least disruption to families.

The Bridging Forward plan is designed to provide flexibility to transition to new opportunities while maintaining core aspirations toward the children, families, and communities we serve. The plan, created with input from all Cornerstones of Care team members, looks to continue to develop the resources offered to help children and families heal from trauma.

“Bridging Forward is our commitment to care for the children and families we currently serve while exploring ways to diversify our work to more effectively help more people,” said Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose.

The Executive Leadership Team is assessing programs and innovation to provide the best possible tools for children and families healing from trauma. Cornerstones of Care will continue its traditional work in foster care and adoption but is increasing its focus to expand programs such as Build Trybe, which provides marketable job skills to youth as they transition out of foster care.

Skill development is part of the agency’s commitment to prevention. In the case of Build Trybe, the goal is to reduce chronic unemployment, homelessness, and food insecurity that too many youth face after aging out of foster care.

In other instances, prevention means continuing to take the least disruptive path to working through trauma. For example, our Kansas team reduced the number of youth removed from homes by 36 percent in our foster care work in Wyandotte, Leavenworth, and Atchison counties.

“Our goal is to engage with families in ways that don’t begin with a hotline call and safety concerns,” said Chief Programs and Innovation Officer Justin Horton. “We want to help at a community level before state child welfare system intervention is necessary.”

To that end, Cornerstones of Care is continuing its Kansas work in Functional Family Therapy, which can be accessed by families outside the child welfare system, and in Family Preservation. Our outpatient therapy programs in Missouri have expanded from one school district to three and are beginning to provide therapy to students in Eastern Missouri.

This year, thanks to a $750,000 grant from the St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund, Cornerstones of Care is expanding its impact in St. Louis schools. This grant will fund two new therapist positions to provide trauma-informed therapeutic counseling services and brings Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) services to 11 buildings in the Hazelwood School District.

“I am reminded of the quote by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said, ‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in,’” said Merideth. “With our new strategic plan, we want to prevent compounding trauma and sharpen our response to it.”

This story appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of our Community Voice print newsletter. Sign up to receive stories like this in your mailbox twice a year.

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2023 Community Forum video and Impact Report Now Available

February 29, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

The 2023 Community Forum, delivered to the public in a professional, pre-recorded video for the first time, is now available for viewing and features top voices from within the organization, including President & CEO Merideth Rose and Chief Programs and Innovation Officer Justin Horton, offering a snapshot of our organization’s efforts in 2023.

The Community Forum video takes a special look at the future of two growing programs: our BIST (Behavioral Intervention Support Team) program and our Outpatient Counseling program. These programs are representative of the prevention work that Cornerstones of Care plans to focus on in 2024 as part of our new five-year strategic plan. In the video, Sara Barnes, Senior Director of Outpatient Programs & Services, discusses the developments in outpatient therapy, and Marty Huitt, Director of BIST, shares more about her program and recent book, Cultivating Behavioral Change in K-12 Students: Team-Based Intervention and Support Strategies.

Watch the 2023 Community Forum Video

The release of the 15-minute video coincides with the public sharing of the 2023 Impact Report, a comprehensive look at Cornerstones of Care’s impact in 2023.

The freshly-designed Impact Report gives readers an exclusive look at organization-wide achievements in 2023 and key people, programs, and projects that made a difference for the youth and families we serve. Contents of the 20-page report include a letter from the CEO, program highlights, and a first-look at the vision behind Cornerstones of Care’s five-year strategic plan. The Impact Report also features several success stories from the past year, demonstrating the impact of our work in the community.

Read the 2023 Impact Report

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Kansas Renews Cornerstones of Care's Foster Care Case Management Contract

February 20, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is renewing the contract with Cornerstones of Care to continue its foster care case management work in Wyandotte, Leavenworth, and Atchison counties.  

Cornerstones of Care is one of four agencies to have existing contracts renewed in Kansas foster care. The new contract will run through June 2028. Earlier this year, DCF renewed Cornerstones of Care’s contract for Family Preservation Services in southeastern and northeastern Kansas.  

 “During the bidding process, we were focused on the organizations’ commitment to enhancing the quality of foster care, reintegration, adoption, the Independent Compact on the Placement of Children, and independent living services to Kansas children,” said DCF Secretary Laura Howard in a statement. “We believe our contracted partners are committed to a practice model that guides team members to engage families and create lifetime support networks.”  

In 2024, DCF has 5,895 children in foster care, which is the lowest number of children in care in 10 years. 

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A Message of Support from Cornerstones of Care

February 15, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

We at Cornerstones of Care send our love and support to the people, especially the children, affected by the shooting at the Chiefs Superbowl Parade on Tuesday, February 14. This horrific incident will continue to impact residents young and old for some time, and we encourage everyone to prioritize your mental and emotional health at this time.

You may be struggling to navigate the emotions you're experiencing in response to this event. Even if you were not there, these feelings are real, they are yours, and they are legitimate. These feelings are often symptoms of trauma, and you don't have to navigate them alone. We encourage you to seek help in coping with the traumatic stress you are feeling. You can call 988 as it provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Also, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce has a database of mental health resources and guides for individuals and employers.

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New BIST Book Offers Innovative Strategies for Transforming Student Behavior in K-12 Schools

February 9, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

For nearly four decades, the impactful methods of the Behavioral Intervention Support Team (BIST) program have transformed schools and classrooms, and now, these groundbreaking practices are unveiled in book form for the very first time. Cultivating Behavioral Change in K-12 Students: Team Based Intervention and Support Strategies went on sale Friday, February 9 and is available for online order via the Routledge publishing website and Amazon.

The 178-page book is written by Marty Huitt, Director of BIST, in collaboration with BIST Consultant Gail Tolbert. A former educator, Marty has led the BIST program since 2003 and has inspired countless school leaders to transform their school culture. Her relatability, unwavering belief, and passion for the BIST Model are embedded throughout the book and have been instrumental in the program’s success.

“Since 1990, the BIST Team has provided training, support for implementation, as well as classroom resources,” said Marty. “However, there has never been a comprehensive compilation of the concepts and practices that make this model successful.”

Topics covered in the book include helping school staff develop a vision to increase the consistency of care for children, fostering family partnerships, increasing teaching time, and a wealth of practical strategies to successfully implement the BIST Model.

“The goal is to inspire hope that children who struggle are not only worthy of success, but as adults, we can help them achieve that success,” said Marty.

Since its inception in the late 1980s, the BIST Model has made a tremendous impact in schools throughout Kansas, Missouri, and beyond. Today, more than 330 schools in nine states partner with BIST by receiving regular consultation services and training or engaging with professional development opportunities that address unique challenges faced by educators today.

This book is one effort to expand accessibility and awareness of the BIST Model beyond its current scope and to equip adults with tangible tools and tips to manage out-of-bounds behaviors and collaborate with students and other adults to create lasting change. While the book has a strong application for any adult working with children, it is well set up to be used as a book study companion for school staff groups.

Todd Jefferson, an elementary school principal in Dunlap, Illinois, is one school leader who has wholeheartedly adopted the BIST Model and witnessed profound results. 

“I wish I could have been introduced to the BIST philosophy earlier in my career,” said Todd. “Our relationships with students, connections with parents, conversations about student behaviors, and our own reactions and responses to students who are out of bounds has significantly improved. Our students and families now feel they belong, they matter, and they are worthy rather than just hearing it.”

Cultivating Behavioral Change in K-12 Students: Team Based Intervention and Support Strategies is now available for purchase on the Routledge website or via Amazon.



To learn more about the BIST program, visit the BIST website, sign up for the BIST eNewsletter, or check out one of our recent stories about BIST.

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$430,000 Renovation Project Transforms PATH House for Next Generation of Foster Youth

January 23, 2024 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

After 16 weeks of renovations inside the PATH House, the kids in the Pathways Transitional Living Program can finally go back home.

Built in 1910, the three-story historic home is conveniently located in the Midtown neighborhood of Kansas City and provides supervised transitional living arrangements for up to ten 16- to 21-year-olds transitioning out of foster care. Despite over a century of use, the house has never undergone a complete renovation – until now.

A $220,000 grant from the Children’s Trust Fund of Missouri got this renovation project off its feet, and significant contributions from the Ann and Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Foundation, the Morgan Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor helped get it to the finish line. Several other funders also contributed to this project, including The BlueScope Foundation, the Hunt Family Foundation/Chiefs Charity Game, the Missouri United Methodist Foundation, and the Shumaker Family Foundation.

Cornerstones of Care’s investment into the transformation of the property included major structural updates, such as a repaired foundation, new electrical wiring, and an updated HVAC system.

“Most of the changes happened in places you cannot see,” said Karyn Finn, Senior Director of Youth Support Programs and Services. The kitchen was completely gutted and now features a new sink, countertops, and appliances like a new fridge, stove, and dishwasher.

The 100-year-old house also received all-new furnishings including mattresses, chairs, and wall hangings to upgrade the look and feel of the home. Almost all the existing furniture was replaced, except the bed frames, dressers, and a few other items that were still in good condition.

One piece of furniture that remained in the house was a large wooden dining table and matching buffet which were part of the house when it was donated to Cornerstones of Care in 2014. Several Build Trybe apprentices in the Building Trades program refurbished the pieces by sanding, deep cleaning, and re-staining the damaged redwood surface.

Many of the students served by both Build Trybe and the Pathways Transitional Living Program are aging out of foster care, have experienced trauma, and are at high risk of becoming homeless. The PATH House provides a 24/7 supervised, at-home living experience where the kids can develop peer relationships and receive support in case of any issues with transportation, challenges at school, or other needs or crises.

“The youth come with different kinds of trauma, different kinds of behaviors, and different experiences, so making sure that our team is informed and educated to manage those is very important,” said Karyn. Cornerstones of Care also helps the residents connect to community-based resources like a doctor, dentist, or mental health therapist.

Each resident has a case worker and is expected to carry a job and go to school. They also are expected to contribute to cooking and cleaning for the house and maintenance of the community space.

“Youth can come and go if they meet certain expectations and communicate where they are going,” said Karyn. “That’s part of learning how to have freedom.”

Destiny Jackson, Director of Pathways Transitional Living, and Lori McDonald, Program Manager of Pathways Transitional Living, played a critical role in advocating for the renovations. The two saw this project as more than just a cosmetic upgrade but an investment into the lives of the children in the program.

“I wanted it to feel like home,” said Destiny. Kids in foster care often live in a wide variety of places – from dorms or residential facilities to foster homes – and are used to being treated differently than their peers.

“They haven’t been afforded the same opportunities as other kids,” said Destiny. “They’re older youth; so, they’re the kids that are forgotten, the kids that aren’t going to get adopted. To give them something like this on their last trip before they meet adulthood; I think that’s an amazing thing to be able to do.”

And providing these teens with a bright, spacious home filled with everything they need sends a significant, lasting message.

“It tells them, ‘I can do better, I can live better, I do have choices,’” said Lori. “I think it will brighten their world.”

View Photos


The youth living at the PATH House officially moved back in on December 4, and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on January 31. If you know of a youth aged 16-23 who would be a good fit for the Pathways Transitional Living Program, please fill out an inquiry form on our website.

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Cornerstones of Care Receives EPA Grant to Provide Conservation Training

December 11, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Cornerstones of Care will receive a $458,358 grant from Region 7 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to recruit, train, and place workers in the EPA’s Brownfields Jobs program. 

Through the Build Trybe program, Cornerstones of Care will coordinate to provide 180 hours of education to help train 50 youth and place at least 25 of them in environmental jobs. The grant, part of the Biden Administration’s Investing in America Agenda, provides funding to organizations that are working to create a skilled workforce in communities where assessment, cleanup, and preparation of brownfield sites for reuse activities are taking place. The skills training will include hazardous waste operations, and landscape and forestry restoration. 

“On behalf of Cornerstones of Care and Build Trybe, we are ecstatic about receiving this grant from the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose. “Build Trybe’s alliance with the EPA will provide training and marketable skills in conservation to underserved and disadvantaged youth throughout Kansas City. This is a win-win for the environment and the future of the youth we serve.” 

You can read the complete Region 7 EPA news release here 

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Building Bonds and Expertise: New Kinship Path Course Offers Support to Kansas Caregivers

December 11, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Starting this January, kinship caregivers in the Kansas City area will have an in-person opportunity to build a support network of fellow caregivers while learning trauma-informed skills through the Kinship Path course. Kinship Path is a free hybrid training course developed by Children’s Alliance of Kansas with 10 facilitated meetings and four online, self-paced trainings. It is open to any kinship parent who desires more peer connection and support navigating the child welfare system.

Charlotte Baker, Manager of Resource Family Development in Kansas, and Alicia Dentler, Clinical Utilization Specialist, work in foster care at Cornerstones of Care and will be the first to offer the class in person since it was presented to the public in March 2022. 

“We’re really trying to build up our families to feel more confident with the kids they care for and get more support and resources,” said Charlotte.

The January class will take place Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6-8 p.m. at the Cornerstones of Care KCK location. Topics covered will include creating community with birth parents, considerations for relatives who are raising a child, trauma-informed parenting, and more.

“Our ideal number is 12 to 15 families,” said Charlotte. “Enough to have good conversations and discussions but not so many that people feel uncomfortable or that they’re just a number.”

By completing the Kinship Path course, caretakers receive 26 licensing credit hours if they are pursuing their foster care license. Currently, in Kansas, relatives serving as placements do not need to be licensed by the state, but non-relative kin such as teachers, coaches, and family friends are required to obtain licensure.

Research shows that children placed in kinship care have better outcomes than those placed in traditional, non-kin foster homes. The Kinship Path program is part of a larger effort to identify more qualified kinship foster homes and encourage caregivers to get licensed.

“Up until this point, only a handful of related kin become licensed,” said Charlotte.

Recent policy changes in Kansas have been aimed at lessening the burden of licensing for families to make it easier to get licensed and access the myriad benefits. According to the Children’s Alliance, benefits include financial support, ongoing training and peer networks, and eligibility for respite care up to two days per month by choosing to become licensed as a Kansas foster home.

One reason kinship families may avoid licensure is because they assume that means they must take in other foster children, too, which is one of many myths that providers are trying to dispel.

“I’m hoping that in conjunction with PATH, licensing will be a resource for families, and it won’t be a super strenuous process,” said Charlotte. “I’m really hoping that we will see a full circle of better outcomes, better support for our families, better quality assurance, and take away some of the hoops families have to jump through right now.”

If anyone knows the value of training programs like the Kinship PATH course, it’s Alicia, who unexpectedly became a kinship caregiver herself 12 years ago.

“It can be lonely being a kinship caregiver, and this gives them the opportunity to connect with one another and know they’re not alone,” said Alicia. “Personally, I think it should be mandatory for kinship caregivers to take this training because it’s amazing.”

Today, Alicia is a proud adoptive parent of a 14-year-old and is eager to share her knowledge and experience with parents and families who are walking a similar path.

“With any course, the goal is to have the person who has the real-life lived experience, and Alicia has that,” said Charlotte. “She’s such an amazing resource for families.”

Conversely, Charlotte has 10 years of experience with licensing and foster care and can offer her expertise from the policy side.

“We’re really trying to mesh both of our knowledge sets, and we’re excited,” she said.

Kinship Path is part of The Children’s Alliance’s Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) program and is currently only administered in Kansas, with plans to share it with other states soon. Currently, there are no geographical limitations for joining a course; each course is open to anyone in Kansas, including those not connected to the hosting agency.

To register for this Kinship Path course and other related trainings, visit the Children’s Alliance website.

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NASB North Pole Holiday Happy Hour to Kick Off Giving Season

November 21, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Start your holiday season right with a Stuff the Stocking Happy Hour at NASB’s North Pole on Thursday, December 7.  From 4:30-7:00 p.m., attendees can enjoy complimentary snacks and drinks, stuff stockings for children in our care, and mingle with Cornerstones of Care volunteers, donors, and team members. The event is free and open to the public and includes holiday photos with K.C. Wolf from 5-6 p.m. 

The Stuff the Stocking Happy Hour is the official launch of NASB’s North Pole, a holiday destination spreading the joy of the season to over 1,000 children and families in the Kansas City area through the Gift Gallery and the Sponsor-A-Youth programs. In 2022, NASB North Pole provided gifts for over 1,400 children, and Cornerstones of Care is on track to top that number this December.  

Two weeks remain for holiday shoppers to buy gifts for these programs, and the need for donations is high. Individuals who want to help “fill Santa’s bags” by purchasing gifts for our Sponsor-A-Youth program can sign up to sponsor one or more children in foster care. Those who want to supply our Gift Gallery with toys and trinkets for families in our community-based programs can visit the NASB North Pole webpage for donation suggestions and guidelines.  

Event organizers encourage those purchasing gifts to drop them off during the Stuff the Stocking Happy Hour, where they will be sorted, wrapped, and set out by volunteers over the next few days.  

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Spirit Gala Recap: A Colorful Way to Show Support 

November 20, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Cornerstones of Care’s 41st Annual Spirit Gala added splashes of color to a fun, festive, and successful fundraising event. 

The November 10 celebration, co-chaired by Ken and Leslie Gerling, was highlighted by attendees’ colorful fashions and vibrant prints. The event, which was themed “Color Me Happy,” attracted 618 attendees and raised $442,500 from silent and live auctions. Funds raised included three $10,000 donations and thirty-three $1,000 donations from gracious benefactors as part of the “fund a need” portion of the live auction. 

KCTV anchor Brad Stephens served as emcee and joined President and CEO Merideth Rose in welcoming the event’s two Spirit Award honorees, Georgiane Hayhow and Kansas City Corporate Challenge, and thanking them for their support of Cornerstones of Care.

“This year, we emphasized our people who make a difference, and we want to acknowledge the incredible support we receive from people like Georgiane and from organizations like the Kansas City Corporate Challenge,” said Merideth. “They represent a community of donors, volunteers, and supporters who show up time and again for the children and families we serve.”

The evening’s program featured a video highlighting the value of expressive art therapy on our Ozanam Campus. The video shared the story of Noah, a youth on campus who is working through behavioral challenges and is making progress through music, art, and movement therapies thanks to the support of his team of therapists.

The evening was made possible through the support of several ongoing sponsors, including:

  • The Bukaty Company
  • Burns & McDonnell
  • Dynamic Fastener
  • Hallmark
  • Academy Bank
  • Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
  • Stephen and Dr. Susan Hathaway
  • MarksNelson

Many thanks to all who helped produce another very successful and fun event.

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Our Endorsement of the Biden-Harris Announcement Involving Foster Care 

September 29, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

On September 27, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the development of three key supports to families and children in foster care in the United States 

  • Support for kinship caregivers – aiding family members and loved ones who step forward to care for a child in foster care by making it easier for them to access resources and financial assistance. 
  • Protect LGBTQI+ youth in foster care from abuse and mistreatment by ensuring they have the services they need to thrive. 
  • Expand access to legal services for children and families at risk of entering or in the child welfare system. 

Cornerstones of Care endorses these proposed regulations and extends its appreciation to the Administration for its commitment to children and families in foster care. 

The announcement comes as Kinship Month, celebrated in September, comes to a close. 

Kinship foster care involves a relative or non-relative kin, such as a teacher, neighbor, or coach with whom the child is familiar. These individuals care for the child as the family works through trauma with the goal of reuniting the family in the future. 

These courageous, compassionate caregivers are often asked on short notice to take children into their homes. In some circumstances, kinship foster parents do not receive the same compensation to cover the costs of raising children that licensed foster parents receive.The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a regulation to allow states to simplify the process for kinship caregivers to become providers for children in foster care and require that states provide kinship foster families with the same financial support as other foster homes.  

As part of the Biden-Harris announcement, HHS is proposing a regulation to protect LGBTQI+ youth in foster care.Nationally, LGBTQI+ youth are overrepresented in foster care compared to those who identify as gender binary. Concerns about the safety and health of LGBTQI+ youth have risen both in foster care settings and in society in general.

Each state’s child welfare agency is to ensure LGBTQI+ children in their care are placed in foster homes where they will be protected from mistreatment related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Caregivers will receive special training on meeting the needs of LGBTQI+ youth and accessing services to help these youth thrive. 

The expansion of legal services is expected to reduce the number of children in foster care. Prior to children entering foster care, families frequently face insurmountable costs when hiring an attorney to address issues that, if resolved, might keep a family together and children out of foster care. These issues include housing and eviction conflicts, domestic violence, and sometimes minor offenses requiring an attorney that families can’t afford.The new rule by HHS allows child welfare agencies to use federal funds to expand access to legal services for families who need a lawyer for such purposes. 

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Georgiane Hayhow, Kansas City Corporate Challenge to Receive 202Spirit Awards 

September 20, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Cornerstones of Care announced its 2023 Spirit Award recipients, honoring Georgiane Hayhow and Kansas City Corporate Challenge for their impact on Cornerstones of Care and the community we serve. 

They will receive their awards at the November 10 Spirit Gala, held at the Overland Park Convention Center and hosted by Gala Honorary Chairpersons Ken and Leslie Gerling. This marks the 41st year that Cornerstones of Care has honored individuals and organizations for their workhelping to build safe, healthy communities.  

“The support our two Spirit Award winners provide is an invaluable asset to the children and families we serve,” said Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose. “Georgiane Hayhow and Kansas City Corporate Challenge embody their ongoing commitment to build safe, healthy communities.” 

Every August, Georgiane hosts “B Day,” a community event that includes a school supply drive for Cornerstones of Care. B Day is in honor of her late husband Brian, who was a Spirit Award winner in 2014 and passed away in 2015. Georgiane learned about the Gillis Campus and Cornerstones of Care’s work through Brian, and it has become one of her charities of choice.  

Georgiane was involved with the Cornerstones of Care’s Chiefs Charity Game Committee in 2020 and 2021 and has been a member of the Fundraising, Events & Engagement Council for the past three years. She has funded Cornerstones of Care’s holiday toy drives and sponsored youth through NASB’s North Pole. In addition to Cornerstones of Care, Georgiane’s philanthropy includes Children’s Mercy Hospital, Happy Bottoms, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. 

“She is quick to ask, ‘How can I help?’ and she rallies her network to assist,” said Chief Development Officer Chad Harris. “The service events Georgiane leads involve her children, teaching them the importance of having a giving and caring heart. It’s a true reflection of the Spirit Award.” 

Since 2021, Cornerstones of Care has been a proud charitable partner of KC Corporate Challenge. Proceeds from the games have supported the Build Trybe program and connected the program’s youth with companies and businesses for employment opportunities. The alliance with the Corporate Challenge has raised awareness of Cornerstones of Care’s work within Kansas City’s corporate community.  

The Corporate Challenge’s closing ceremonies often feature products made by Build Trybe youth and instructors. This has provided an additional opportunity to share the entrepreneurial spirit of Build Trybe youth with the business community.  

“Kansas City Corporate Challenge has been a great alliance in elevating our brand in the community and supporting our Build Trybe youth,” said Chad. “Our relationship with the Corporate Challenge has encouraged team members to participate in the Corporate Challenge games, which has helped our own self-care.” 

This year's Spirit Gala theme, “Color Me Happy,” symbolizes Cornerstones of Care’s unwavering commitment to filling the lives of the children and families with hues of hope, joy, and growth. Honorary Chairs Ken and Leslie Gering have long been Cornerstones of Care supporters, with Ken currently serving on the board of directors. 

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Disc Golf Tournament Offers Fun for Golfers, Support for Youth 

September 12, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Disc golf has a lot to offer for participants of all ages: exercise, time together with friends, and a day out in nature. On Saturday, September 16, disc golfers can play to benefit the Ozanam Campus, which will take place at Thornfield Disc Golf Course. 

The tournament will feature contests, prizes, raffles, and friendly wagering in what has historically been a late-summer good time.  

Mark Twain called golf “a good walk, spoiled.” Maybe that’s because he never played disc golf. He also never met Susan Hathaway, whose unofficial title might be Organizer/Supporter for Aidan’s Aeros Advocates Disc Golf Team that will be playing in this year’s tournament.  

Susan isn’t a disc golfer; she walks the course as her husband plays with a team of friends who are also into the sport. She enjoys getting out in nature and the camaraderie of the disc golf teams. Saturday looks like a perfect disc golf day with temperatures in the upper 70s, partly sunny, and a light wind. 

“It’s a beautiful course, and the weather is nice,” she said. “We’re able to combine what people like to do on a sunny day on gorgeous grounds.” 

Disc golf dates back to the 1960s. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, Ed Headrick is known as the father of disc golf because of his work as part of the development team at Wham-O, the company that invented the Frisbee. Headrick also designed the disc golf pole hole in 1975. The rest of the history is blurry, with several recreational camp counselors saying they created a handmade version of disc golf with their campers sometime in the 1960s.  

Aidan’s Aeros Advocates are drawn to the tournament for the fun, camaraderie, and time outdoors, but are motivated to participate to support the Ozanam Campus, the tournament’s beneficiary. For Susan, the Ozanam Campus was a difference maker for her now adult son, Aidan. In middle school, Aidan struggled with behavior issues related to his autism diagnosis. The support system for Aidan broke down and the family needed something better. 

“It was tough on him and tough on us as a family. We felt like Ozanam might be our last chance,” Susan said. “Aidan really just flourished there, and Ozanam kind of saved us.” 

The Hathaway family’s experience at Ozanam impacted them in other ways, too. They saw other youth and families in care at Ozanam who didn’t have the same support the Hathaways did. Susan remembers attending Aidan’s graduation; some of the other graduates only had their case worker there to support them. 

“I don’t know how people survive without organizations like Ozanam,” Susan said. 

Some of that support comes from the Disc Golf Tournament, which includes a “Vegas hole” for some unconventional fun. To win the round, disc golfers wager on making a hole in one. If they ace the hole, they earn double their bet, and losing bets support the Ozanam Campus. Susan said it’s customary in her group that whoever wins the bet donates that money to Ozanam as well.  

“The tournament is a way to do something that a lot of my husband’s friends like to do for an organization that we’re happy to raise money for,” Susan said. 

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2023-24 Back-To-School Roundup

August 21, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Across Kansas and Missouri, Cornerstones of Care team members are on the front lines, providing state-of-the-art education services through a trauma-informed lens to meet the needs of the children and families we serve. While there are many people, programs, and exciting updates that we could highlight in this Back-to-School Roundup, we’ve chosen to share just a few and invite you to follow our social media channels and check out the Cornerstones of Care website as we celebrate the impact of our school-based programs all-year-long.

First Backpack Drive-Through Giveaway in Kansas City

The 2023-24 school year kicked off with the first-ever Backpack Drive-Through Giveaway on August 15. The giveaway was held in the parking lot of the Gillis Day Treatment School and was available to children in our day treatment schools, families licensed as foster parents, and kids in foster care case managed by Cornerstones of Care.

In two hours, team members distributed 101 backpacks filled with school supplies to kids and families in foster care. Families could also choose from an assortment of donated Bear Claw snow boots, makeup, school uniforms, snacks, and more.

Cornerstones of Care has been distributing backpacks and school supplies for years; however, this was the first time the drive-through option was available to families to alleviate the effort required for case managers and licensing workers to hand-deliver supplies. This year, approximately 600 backpacks filled with school supplies were delivered to the children and families we serve.

“It’s amazing to see the excitement of the kids picking out their own backpacks,” said Lea Loudon, Community Engagement Manager. “This one choice gives them ownership of their new accessory and supplies that will help them to be successful in the new school year.”

For those who want to support our students and teachers returning to school this fall, visit to donate.

St. Louis Schools Receive a Boost from Children’s Services Fund Grant

Cornerstones of Care is expanding its impact in St. Louis schools thanks to a $750,000 grant from the St. Louis Children Services Fund. The grant will fund two new therapist positions to provide school-based trauma-informed therapeutic counseling services in the Mehlville and Parkway School Districts. It will also bring Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) services to 11 buildings in the Hazelwood School District.

Cornerstones of Care has been in the Hazelwood School District since 2018. This grant will allow team members to provide therapeutic services to more schools in St. Louis County and bring BIST to St. Louis in a big way.

Laura Nolan is the Clinical Manager for the school-based therapists in St. Louis and has been anxiously awaiting the integration of BIST services for years.

“I think BIST pairs well with our work because it gives everybody in the school a skillset to work with kids,” said Laura. “It uses trauma-informed language and doesn’t ask school staff to be therapists. It allows them to be the amazing and effective teachers, educators, paraprofessionals, and administrators they are.”

In addition to funding two new therapist positions, the Children’s Service Fund grant makes it possible to have a BIST Consultant, Bob Sweeny, dedicated to the Hazelwood School District.

“It’s really exciting to have somebody in the St. Louis area for BIST,” said Laura. “I think that’s a really great opportunity to continue to grow our presence in the community.”

BIST Program Attracts Impressive Numbers at Training, Reflecting Overall Program Growth

First introduced to schools in 1989, the BIST program continues to grow rapidly in all areas, including the number of attendees at BIST trainings.

In late July, the BIST program held a week-long Basic BIST training at The Pavilion at John Knox Village in Kansas City, Missouri. Approximately 850 educators and administrators joined the training in person; 250 joined virtually.

The goals of the training were to help school-based professionals develop an understanding of the psycho-educational philosophy of the BIST model, learn the skills and language to problem-solve with challenging students and develop effective communication skills with parents and other staff members.

“People walk away from the training with more than just ideas,” said Judith Soltys, BIST Manager and Consultant. “They walk away feeling like they have things they can put in place immediately. They walk away with a greater sense of community and how they can support each other.”

BIST is also increasing its presence in school districts – and homes – across the country. As of August 2023, BIST consultants are collaborating with school staff in 271 schools in 51 school districts across nine states.

“Our work has evolved beyond schools and into the community,” said Judith, referring to the increase of in-home services for parents. “This type of comprehensive care is ideal because when parents are supported and have the same language, everyone is working towards the same goal, and the kids can have the wrap-around support that they need.”

Celebrating New and Familiar Faces in Leadership at the Day Treatment Schools

This is the 41st school year at Cornerstones of Care for Pam Sanders, Director of Education at the Gillis Campus Day Treatment School, an impressive milestone rarely reached by those in school leadership. Before stepping into her current role twelve years ago, Pam was a campus trainer and then Director of Recreational Services for the Gillis Center.

Over the summer, Pam and several Gillis School team members and students attended Rotary Youth Camp, a camp specifically designed for children and young adults with special needs or other physical, mental, or emotional challenges.

“It was our first time back since COVID, and it was educational, positive, and fun,” said Pam. “We went fishing and swimming and participated in nature crafts, archery, tie-dye, and a nature walk. It was an excellent camp experience and enjoyed by all who attended.”

At the start of the school year, Pam likes to focus on building relationships and community within each classroom. She focuses on creating routines for students and team members, building expectations, and practicing the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) matrix to give the school a solid foundation for addressing behavioral challenges throughout the school year.

A few miles away, Jessica Gagewanamaker is a few months into her new role as Director of Education at the Ozanam Campus Day Treatment School. While she may be new to Cornerstones of Care, Jessica brings over two decades of diverse experience in education, most prominently in special education leadership.

“I have spent my entire career working with struggling youth in some way,” said Jessica. “Whether it’s discipline, trying to find accommodations for a struggling student, or working with parents who are very invested and involved in the school, I think having that background in special education makes for having more successful leadership.”

Her impressive resume includes her most recent job as Director of Special Education at Hogan Preparatory Academy.

Jessica is also a mom of three and has lived experience raising a child with unique behavioral and academic needs – much like the students in attendance at the Ozanam School.

“It’s a passion of mine to help that population find their own strengths and be successful.”

The Ozanam Campus Day Treatment School has made significant progress in addressing challenging behaviors in recent years and hopes to build on this growth in the 2023-24 school year with a focus on academics.

Build Trybe Opens the Doors to New Creative Learning Space

Visitors to the Ozanam Campus may notice a bright red Kansas City Southern caboose along the main drive – a renovation project recently completed by the Build Trybe program.

Thanks to a grant from The Richard and Charlotte Orear Charitable Foundation and two other family foundations that wish to remain anonymous, the train car has been transformed into a new multipurpose center for vocational education for Build Trybe.

Build Trybe apprentices and instructors were actively involved with the design and construction of the train car, which includes computers, a printer, and a meeting area. The space’s unique and engaging environment will foster powerful learning experiences, encouraging our youth to envision big ideas and explore new concepts. 

“This project was driven by people with the heart and the vision to see it through,” said Merideth Rose, President & CEO, at the train car ribbon cutting. “It’s a symbol of the heartbeat and the love that goes into our work.”

It is also one of several projects that highlights the vibrant growth of the Build Trybe program. The program recently received a $50,000 Farm-to-School grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide education and support through its Seed to Plate program, which teaches youth about agriculture, healthy eating, and the culinary arts.

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USDA Grant to Support Seed to Plate Initiatives

August 18, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Our Build Trybe program received a $50,000 Farm-to-School Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide education and support through its Seed to Plate program, which teaches youth about agriculture, healthy eating, and the culinary arts. 

This is the second grant Build Trybe has received from the USDA. In 2021, the program received a similar grant related to its horticulture and culinary education. USDA’s Farm-to-School Grant projects create opportunities for children to learn about nutrition and agriculture through hands-on experiences, such as planting and harvesting fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Many funded grant projects help children achieve nutrition security, which is consistent access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods essential to optimal health and well-being.

“We are grateful for the USDA’s renewed support of our Seed to Plate program,” said Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose. “The Farm-to-School Grant ties into our values of providing skills, knowledge, and nutritional sustenance.”

Build Trybe’s Seed to Plate program helped harvest more than 2,200 pounds of fruit and vegetables in 2022. The program provides nutrition education to youth in residential care and helps apprentices develop marketable culinary skills. Currently, the Seed to Plate program uses the produce from its gardens to help feed more than 250 youth in Therapeutic Day Treatment and Residential Treatment Programs.

This year USDA is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Farm-to-School Grant Program. Since the program’s inception in 2013, the department has awarded nearly $85 million in Farm-to-School Grants, funding more than 1,100 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. These projects have reached over 28 million students in nearly 65,000 schools.

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Persistence Pays Off in Build Trybe Train Car Renovation

August 16, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

A decades-old Kansas City Southern caboose on the Ozanam Campus got a 21st Century makeover to give it new life and make it an asset for youth in our Build Trybe program.

Cornerstones of Care leaders and team members showed off the renovated train car at an August 3 ribbon cutting. The event highlighted the community, volunteer spirit, and “the stubbornness” of the Build Trybe program, according to Build Trybe Director Theo Bunch.

“The train car shows how a community of folks got excited about the project and built a place where people could have vision and ideas that will change lives,” Theo said.

Funded by grants from the Richard and Charlotte Orear Charitable Foundation and two family foundations that wished to remain anonymous, the sweat equity for the internal renovation and outside deck was led by Theo and the Build Trybe construction team.

Purchased at an auction in the 1970s by a patent attorney, the caboose sat on the attorney’s Kansas farm for several years as he decided what to do with it. Through a friend, he decided to donate it to the Ozanam Campus. It traveled on a flatbed truck from the farm to campus.

Over the years, the caboose served as office space before informally becoming a campus meeting space. Since children also liked to play on the train car as a gathering spot, leadership decided to build the ball field and pavilion around the caboose.

The ribbon cutting, which included food prepared through the Seed-to-Plate program with produce harvested from our gardens, was attended by members of the Build Trybe program, Cornerstones of Care team members, volunteers, supporters, Merideth Rose, and Ken Gerling, a member of our governing board.

Merideth said the train car is another example of the persistence and grit that is embedded in the Cornerstones of Care’s culture. “This project was driven by people with the heart and the vision to see it through,” she said. “It’s a symbol of the heartbeat and the love that goes into our work.”

Build Trybe team members use the space for educational purposes with youth on campus.

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First-Time Fundraiser to Feature A Night of '80s Nostalgia, Music, and Philanthropy

August 9, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Get ready to relive the ’80s with live music from The M80s, an open bar, an ice cream truck, and all the iconic elements that defined the decade. Bright Lights, Waldo Nights, a brand-new fundraiser for Cornerstones of Care, kicks off this Friday, August 11, at 7:00 p.m. in the Gillis Campus School Gym.

The Gillis School, located at 8150 Wornall Road in Kansas City, Missouri, is home to the Gillis Campus Day Treatment Program, one of the featured programs for this special event.

Our Day Treatment Schools provide an individualized curriculum, small class sizes, and a variety of therapeutic options for students in grades K-12 who have IEPs or 504s and are referred by their home school district. Students acquire coping skills and new learning strategies to progress behaviorally, emotionally, socially, and academically. These new skills help them transition back to their school district or graduate from high school with plans for the future. 

As guests dance the night away in the gym, there will be several opportunities to learn more about the Gillis and Ozanam Campus Day Treatment Schools and our consulting and training programs that help teachers create supportive learning environments in over 300 regional schools.

Our Party Hosts will compete all night long to be named “Most Fly Fundraiser” at the dance while raising funds to support these important efforts. Paul Nyakatura, KCUR’s mid-day announcer, will emcee the event.

For those unable to attend the event in person, we encourage you to learn more about our Party Hosts and donate online to support the children and families that we serve. For those prepping to make an entrance at Bright Lights, Waldo Nights this Friday, grab your friends, put on your best ’80s attire, and get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime!

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Hundreds of Families in Foster Care to Receive Backpacks and School Supplies this August

August 7, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

New this year, families involved with Cornerstones of Care foster care services can pick up brand-new backpacks and a host of other school supplies by visiting the Gillis Campus Day Treatment School parking lot on Saturday, August 12 between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. 

For many years, Cornerstones of Care has provided backpacks and school supplies for families licensed as foster parents and kids in foster care that are case managed by Cornerstones of Care. The case managers and licensing workers have been solely responsible for delivering the backpacks to hundreds of kids and families in the Kansas City metro.

In 2022, 897 backpacks filled with school supplies were delivered to the children and families that we serve.

This year, Cornerstones of Care will offer a new option for families to pick up their backpacks and school supplies “drive-through style” to receive their supplies without leaving their vehicles.

“This is our attempt to get some of the families in the KC metro to come to us,” said Lea Loudon, Community Engagement Manager, who is leading the effort this year. 

In addition to backpacks and school supplies, families will have the opportunity to choose from an assortment of donated Bear Claw snow boots, makeup, school uniforms, snacks, and more. Cornerstones of Care is also once again partnering with Giving Hope & Help to provide period products as well.

Families can also enter to win two $50 Walmart and Target gift cards that will be raffled off during the drive-through.

Located at 8150 Wornall Road in the Waldo Neighborhood of Kansas City, the Gillis Campus Day Treatment School is part of the Cornerstones of Care Headquarters and can be accessed via the entrance on 81st street. Visitors can follow the balloons and reference this Campus Map to locate the pick-up area.

After August 12, there will still be families in need of school supplies for the upcoming school year. Cornerstones of Care team members will coordinate with those families to make sure they get the things that they need. They will also make sure to supply the Ozanam and Gillis Campus Day Treatment Schools with school supplies using donations from the community.

If you would like to support these efforts, check out our Back-to-School Amazon Wish List and select the items you would like to purchase. Ideally, all purchases will be made prior to August 12 so they can be included in our drive-through distribution; however, we will accept items throughout the school year. To donate money, visit our Cornerstones of Care website and choose your desired donation amount.


Cornerstones of Care Receives Record-Breaking Donation from 2023 Kansas City Restaurant Week

June 27, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Civic leaders and Cornerstones of Care team members and youth gathered at the Ozanam Campus for a check presentation of $127,167 from Kansas City Restaurant Week, the area’s premier annual dining event.

At the June 27 event held in front of the newly renovated train car on campus, President and CEO Merideth Rose accepted the check on behalf of Cornerstones of Care, Kansas City Restaurant Week’s 2023 featured charity. Participating Kansas City area restaurants donated 10 percent of sales from each meal during KC Restaurant Week in January. Proceeds directly benefit Build Trybe’s Seed to Plate program, an apprenticeship program that teaches youth how to grow and cook healthy fruits and vegetables, preparing them for life outside Cornerstones of Care.

Kathy Nelson, President & CEO of Visit KC, and Bill Teel, President of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, shared statements on behalf of their organizations. Visit KC and the Greater KC Restaurant Association are Founding Partners of KC Restaurant Week and partner with other area sponsors to spotlight regional restaurants each year.

“This is what’s great about Kansas City,” said Nelson. “It’s not only the commitment from our area restaurants but also the entire Kansas City community who turned out to support Kansas City Restaurant Week through their participation that made this donation possible.”

Rose also shared a few words at the event.

“In the last year, we harvested more than a ton of fruits and vegetables from the Ozanam and Gillis Campuses – that’s about 2200 pounds of food,” said Rose. “Not only does that food go to support our campuses, but it literally goes back to the kitchens to be used by the youth in the Seed to Plate program.

Thank you for your generosity – we will continue to be good stewards of these funds.”

Following the check presentation, students in the Seed to Plate advanced cohort served a roasted potato salad and smashed cucumber salad made with fresh ingredients harvested one day earlier. The civic representatives were then offered a tour of the campus and gardens, led by Seed to Plate Manager Haley Lucitt.

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Juneteenth Is a Reminder that Courageous Action Requires Everyone

June 16, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

The summer of 2020 was an inflection point for much of America. The video of the May 25 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin became public. That incident was another marker in a disturbing pattern of police shootings of unarmed African American men and women.  

The Floyd murder and the growing Black Lives Matter movement motivated corporations and organizations across America to take action. Cornerstones of Care had already begun taking bold steps to reaffirm principles rooted in 153 years of commitment to provide inclusive and equitable care. As part of its 2020-23 strategic plan, Cornerstones of Care leadership began clarifying its position on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) both internally and externally. 

In celebrating Juneteenth, it’s a good time to reflect on Cornerstones of Care’s commitment to DEI. Through a 2022 change in the organization’s paid holiday policy, Juneteenth became one of nine holidays observed by Cornerstones of Care team members. 

Juneteenth, observed on June 19, marks the day in 1865 that the order was given to end slavery in Texas, bringing slavery to an end throughout the United States. In June 2021, Juneteenth become a federal holiday to bring sweeping recognition of its historic relevance, invaluable context, and education it affords to remind all Americans of the inherent right of all people to live in freedom today.   

“We believe the premise of Juneteenth is vitally important to the hands and heartbeat of our work in support of safe and healthy children and communities, now more than ever,” said Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose. “We believe the celebration of Juneteenth represents more than a day off, but a daily commitment to ensure every child and family we serve will experience one of the most important freedoms of all – to be safe and healthy.”   

As Chad Harris summarized in the organization’s DEI work to date: “In 2020, Cornerstones of Care launched its welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and equitable (WIDE) Initiative in recognizing its critical role in addressing historic inequities within the child welfare sector. The board's decision to amplify existing DEI commitments and give them a renewed focus proved prescient in a year that turned out to be a watershed moment for race relations and social justice in the country.” 

Leaders formed the WIDE Committee, conducted a team member culture climate survey, and a client and stakeholder experience survey. Cornerstones of Care provided foundational training for managers, senior leaders, executive leaders, and board members. The first year of the WIDE Committee’s work culminated in finalizing a diversity statement and began sharing it with stakeholders. 

As the WIDE Committee made progress on developing an overt DEI process, it became clear that outside support would be beneficial. At the beginning of this year, Cornerstones of Care engaged social impact firm Lexicon Strategies to help the WIDE Committee expand its work, including training, community engagement, and board development.  

That expansion includes raising awareness of child welfare disparities. Over this Juneteenth weekend, several team members will staff a table on Saturday, June 17, at the Juneteenth Heritage Festival in the 18thand Vine District. Those volunteers will share with festival attendees the need for more African American foster parents to provide a cultural connection and affirming home. Black children in metropolitan Kansas City comprise 17 percent of the child population yet are 34.5 percent of the area’s foster care population. 

The disparity, which is consistent with national statistics, is complex and challenging. Cornerstones of Care is participating in a pilot program in Wyandotte and Saline counties in Kansas called Parent Youth Facilitation designed to keep youth, including youth of color, out of the foster care system. 

While it’s crucial to identify and resolve the disparity of children of color in foster care, it’s also important that these children have a caring adult in their lives as foster children. Cornerstones of Care has created the Foster Diversity campaign to encourage people of color to become foster parents.  

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, you can start with our Become a Foster Parent 101 video series and fill out an interest form to talk with us about the foster care process. Helping a child work through trauma by being a caring adult when they most need one can be a life-changing experience for both the child and the foster family.  

“Like our organization’s courageous posture to honor Juneteenth and recognize the painful period of enslavement the observation represents, we equally lean into the hope and healing that ‘Freedom Day’ symbolizes,” said Merideth. “While stories of trauma represent the diverse, complex, and challenging pieces of a person’s lived experience, we believe a courageous approach to trauma-informed care gives way to a pathway filled with healing, resilience, and hope.”   

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Live Q&A To Answer Questions from Prospective Foster Parents

June 2, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Cornerstones of Care is hosting an hour-long Foster Care Live Q&A this Wednesday, June 7, at 6:30 p.m. The info-packed chat will include a facilitated conversation about the journey toward becoming a foster parent, footage from our brand-new Become a Foster Parent 101” video series, and  stories and advice directly from a licensed foster parent.

Justin Horton, Chief Programs and Innovation Officer, will facilitate the discussion and be joined by Valyn McClellan, Senior Director of Family Support Programs, Nicole Newton, Director of Resource Development, and Randi Cunningham, a foster parent licensed through Cornerstones of Care. 

The Foster Care Live Q&A is part of a year-round effort to find caring homes for foster youth in Kansas and Missouri. In May, Cornerstones of Care released four videos as part of the “Become a Foster Parent 101” video series that featured the perspectives of several Cornerstones of Care team members and foster parents. In June, the focus will be on a #FosterDiversity campaign that encourages adults who identify as LGBTQ+ and people of color to become foster parents.

RSVP to join the Foster Care Live Q&A via Zoom Webinar by visiting our website. The live stream will also be shared on our Facebook page via Facebook Live.

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Cornerstones of Care Selects Lexicon Strategies to Support WIDE Implementation

May 30, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

In continuing to expand and amplify its WIDE efforts (welcoming, inclusion, diversity, and equity), Cornerstones of Care has entered into an agreement with Lexicon Strategies, an Atlanta-based social impact firm with a background in DEI program development and implementation. Lexicon Strategies will begin work on June 1. 

Starting in 2020, Cornerstones of Care formed its WIDE Committee, developed a diversity statement, provided team members with educational resources, and expanded awareness of its longstanding position as an affirming organization. The WIDE Committee’s early progress highlighted the need to identify a consultant to broaden and enhance efforts.  

A DEI commitment isn’t only the right thing to do, but it’s also good business. Six in 10 U.S. adults say they won’t work for organizations that don’t speak out against racial injustice, according to a recent Edelman Trust Barometer survey.  

The team of experts Lexicon Strategies assembled has led DEI strategy and implementation efforts for a variety of organizations across the country. Cornerstones of Care’s Chief Development Officer Chad Harris, who serves as WIDE Committee co-chairperson, says Lexicon Strategies offered a partnership in growing the organization’s DEI commitment.  

“Lexicon Strategies recognized what we’ve accomplished so far and will help us build upon this foundation to create a path forward as our co-collaborator in achieving our WIDE 2.0 priorities,” Chad said.   

In addition, Lexicon Strategies impressed the search committee with its experience in working with non-profit organizations and its understanding of trauma-informed care. The first step will be to meet with Cornerstones of Care leaders, team members, and other stakeholders. The Lexicon Strategies proposal outlined five areas of enhancement:  

  • Targeted training for managers and other senior leaders 
  • Analyzing data to understand the client and stakeholder experience  
  • Recruitment and retention of team members 
  • Key community engagement 
  • Board development 

Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose called the selection of Lexicon to support this work a big step forward in Cornerstones of Care’s growth as an organization. Rather than viewing Cornerstones of Care’s DEI work in parallel with the organization’s other goals, it is the platform that impacts all future work.  

“We talk about our three Ps that inform our commitment to children and families: purpose, people, and presence,” Merideth said. “Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as our Sanctuary commitment to trauma-informed care, is inherent in all that we do.” 

Lead consultant from Lexicon Strategies, Ryan Roemerman shared, “Lexicon is excited to get to work. We’ve assembled an expert team who have the required experience to ensure Cornerstones of Care has a sustained impact in creating safe and healthy communities.”    

The consultant team will consist of Roemerman, a partner at Lexicon Strategies, who has served as a consultant for state, national, and global organizations that advance equity and social impact. He is an expert in program development, leading innovative projects from concept to practice, and providing technical assistance for organizational transformation. 

Jenna Ortiz, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioner, coach, operational strategist, and systems guru. She is the founder and principal consultant for Dynamic Transformations, a consultancy that guides groups of all sizes and experiences toward more empathetic and efficient work environments.  

Tim’m T. West, an educator, youth advocate, poet, hip-hop artist, and author, leveraging a broad and diverse set of skills and interests to advocate for marginalized communities. He is a facilitator for DEI experiences at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights where he also leads the LGBTQ Institute.  

Lexicon Strategies will begin a discovery phase in collaboration with Cornerstones of Care leadership throughout the summer. The firm will outline the plan to Cornerstones of Care managers at an August Leadership Summit. 

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CSF Award to Provide Additional Mental Health Support

May 25, 2023 (ST. LOUIS, MO)

The St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund (CSF) has awarded Cornerstones of Care a three-year grant to provide school-based training and therapy to three St. Louis County school districts.

The funding for the $750,000 award begins on July 1 and runs until June 30, 2026, and is the first time Cornerstones of Care has received CSF’s Core funding, which is its largest funding allocation. CSF invests in local nonprofits and governmental entities to provide mental and behavioral health services for children and families in St. Louis County through a voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax. 

The CSF funding supports the Hazelwood, Parkway, and Mehlville School Districts. Cornerstones of Care’s focus at both Parkway and Mehlville involves working with students who have been suspended, getting them back into the classroom faster, and reducing future suspensions. Cornerstones of Care will provide greater access to therapy for students and families to help with behavioral health, which will lead to reduced suspensions. In the Hazelwood School District, BIST will train, consult, and provide on-site support for teachers, administrators, and  staff to help with intervention strategies for students who are struggling with behavioral issues.

The award will provide help with behavioral health issues that will lead to reduced suspensions. The funding provides:

  • Behavioral Intervention Support Training (BIST) consultants in 11 Hazelwood School District schools.
  • A therapist to work with the Parkway School District
  • A therapist to work with the Mehlville School District 

“This award has a tremendous opportunity to positively impact the lives of students in these three school districts,” said Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Merideth Rose. “We’ve seen outstanding results from our BIST team and providing greater access to therapists for students and families.”

The Cornerstones of Care funding meets CSF’s mission to improve the lives of children, youth, and families in St. Louis County by strategically investing in the creation and maintenance of an integrated system of care that delivers effective mental health and substance use treatment and prevention services.

Since its inception, CSF has invested more than $550 million in nonprofits and government entities serving St. Louis County kids and families since its first allocation in 2010. It is Missouri's largest children’s service fund. It is dedicated to connecting children and families to quality, accessible mental and behavioral health services, and treatment.

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Tool Donation Helps Build Trybe Apprentices Build Their Future

May 16, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Through its Empower Makers Grant, Stanley Black & Decker donated power tools valued at nearly $20,000 to Build Trybe to help apprentices gain valuable experience in construction.

Stanley Black & Decker developed the Empower Makers Grant to bridge the trade-skills gap in the U.S. construction industry, which will experience an estimated $550 billion of new infrastructure investment over the next decade, according to a 2022 McKinsey study. That investment is expected to create 3.2 million new jobs in nonresidential construction, which would result in a need for 300,000 to 600,000 new workers in construction every year.

Build Trybe is one of 91 programs to receive Empower Makers tool donations. For Build Trybe, the tool donation means that apprentices can gain experience with new tools to add to their marketable skills in building as they transition into adulthood and the job market. In 2022, Build Trybe trained 275 youth in its Culinary, Building, and Horticulture and Landscaping programs.

This is the second donation from Stanley Black & Decker through the grant. In 2022, the grant helped Build Trybe secure The Shop, a workshop in midtown Kansas City for youth who want to learn metal and woodworking. The tool donation includes various power tools, including drills and saws, as well as batteries and chargers.

Recently, the Build Trybe apprentices have been using the new tools to fabricate custom steel-and-wood tables commissioned by James Beard Award-winning Chef Celina Tio, as well as to construct the cutting boards, plant stands, and other products sold by Build Trybe. The high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums have allowed Build Trybe youth to safely increase dust collection efforts, which means more resin-pouring projects in the future.

“This tool donation means increased project capacity and improved workflow,” said Kendell Harbin, Build Trybe’s Building Trades Manager. The tools Build Trybe received through the Empower Makers grant also have motivated youth as they work on their projects.

“The gift of new tools says, ‘Someone believes in what I make and wants to see more,’” said Kendell. “Having a bigger toolbox also means more learning opportunities for our apprentices to gain industry-specific knowledge.”

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Give STL Day Donations Will Offer Peace of Mind

May 9, 2023 (ST. LOUIS, MO)

On Wednesday, May 10, St. Louis area residents can provide safety to children and families in foster care during Give STL Day.

Since 2014, Give STL Day has provided a 24-hour day of online giving to raise money and awareness for hundreds of St. Louis-based nonprofits. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $26 million. Give STL Day is led by the St. Louis Community Foundation. In celebration of the 10th annual giving day, the Community Foundation is adding 10 hours of online giving and more opportunities for nonprofits to win prizes. Give STL Day will end at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 11.

Donors can support Cornerstones of Care by giving to our “Give Our Children Peace of Mind” campaign to provide safety items for the families we serve. Cornerstones of Care has set a goal to raise $7,500 for St. Louis area families.

“Without safety, it’s difficult for families working through trauma to thrive and grow,” said Sally Cook, Cornerstones of Care’s Director of Development. “By supporting Give STL Day, donors can relieve stress, improve access, and give these families peace of mind.”

Donations will help purchase safety items such as:

  • Cribs
  • Gas cards to provide transportation to medical and other important appointments
  • Car seats
  • Pack ‘n Play sets.

All funds raised will stay within the metropolitan St. Louis area to support local families. To donate, look for Cornerstones of Care on the Give STL Day page or donate via the link below.  

Donate Now

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Golfers to Drive their Support for Cornerstones of Care at Tee It Up 

May 3, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

Spring has finally arrived, and the annual Tee It Up Fore the Kids golf event is the perfect way to hit a few balls, have a few laughs, and support a good cause. 

Whether you are a scratch golfer or swing a club once a year, Tee It Up, from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 at Topgolf in Overland Park, is a great opportunity to join family, friends, and co-workers for an evening of golf, entertainment, an open bar, delicious food, and fun.

“Golfers who participated in past Tee It Up events told me how much they enjoyed a memorable evening with colleagues,” said Katie Culbertson, Cornerstones of Care’s Director of Special Events. “Tee It Up gave them the chance to learn more about the incredible work Cornerstones of Care does in our community.”

Teams can sign up for one of the bays and participate in the fun as a group. Sponsorship packages are available, including admission, an open bar, food, and exclusive promotion opportunities. Businesses can use Tee It Up sponsorships to celebrate a success or entertain clients while benefitting the children and families we serve.

In addition to golf, Tee It Up features a raffle, including tickets to a Kansas City Chiefs game of your choice during the upcoming football season. Cornerstones of Care’s exclusive Charlie Hustle T-shirts will also be available for purchase.

Tee It Up is about more than just fun. It supports Cornerstones of Care and the children and families that we serve every day.

Register Now

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In Search of Imperfect People to be Much-Needed Foster Parents

May 1, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

One of the common misconceptions about being a foster parent is that you must be perfect, never make a mistake, and be on top of everything 100 percent of the time.

In our new video series, “How to Become a Foster Parent 101,” that myth is dispelled from the very beginning.

“You don’t need to be perfect,” said Katie and RaChelle, foster parents interviewed for the first episode. Like most families, there will be dishes in the sink, there will be laundry to do, and the remodeling project you want to finish will take longer than you expect. Having a late-model mini-van with all the features or a well-manicured lawn are not necessary to become a foster parent.

What’s important is being a caring adult in the life of a child who needs you.

Throughout the month of May, Cornerstones of Care will celebrate National Foster Care Month by releasing additional videos from the new “Become A Foster Parent 101” series in the coming weeks. The first video is now available for download. Each video features Cornerstones of Care team members and current or former foster parents sharing their insights about foster parenting and the positive difference it makes in the lives of youth in their care.

The video series encourages prospective foster parents in Missouri and Kansas to help fill the gap between youth in need and foster families. Even as the number of children in out-of-home foster care in Missouri and Kansas have fallen from 2021 totals, each state has more youth in care than the number of foster homes available.

The four videos will educate prospective foster parents about the foster care system, the experience of youth who are removed from their homes and help to clear up misconceptions about foster care.

  • Learn about the fundamentals of foster care in “Make a Difference in a Child’s Life.
  • “How a Child Comes into Foster Care” guides viewers through the foster care process, dispels myths, and explains trauma-informed care.
  • “The Types of Foster Care” will show prospective foster parents where they may fit in the spectrum of foster care opportunities.
  • “How to Get Started” prepares prospective foster families for the applications, home visits, and licensing requirements as they prepare for their first placement.

Each video will be released individually through May and in June to celebrate Pride Month. Our June Foster Diversity campaign amplifies Cornerstones of Care’s commitment to diversity and encourages prospective foster parents who are people of color or identify as LGBTQ+ to consider becoming foster parents to help meet the unique needs of the diverse children in our care.

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501c Day Open House to be Held at The Garden by Build Trybe

April 27, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

On Monday, May 1, Cornerstones of Care will celebrate 501c Day by hosting an informal Open House from 3-5 p.m. at our Gillis Campus. Guests are invited to enjoy light refreshments, learn more about our programs, and tour The Garden by Build Trybe, an interactive outdoor learning and growing space.

501c Day, named for the Internal Revenue Service designation for non-profit organizations, is a new Kansas City-wide holiday created by Nonprofit Connect to celebrate the impact of the local nonprofit sector and the business partners and donors who support it. Cornerstones of Care recently released the 2022 Impact Report, which provides readers with a tangible look at our work in the past year. 

The Garden by Build Trybe, located behind the Gillis Campus Day Treatment School, is primarily used by elementary and middle school students in the Day Treatment School and youth in the Build Trybe program. The garden features an orchard, an outdoor kitchen for students to prepare foods from the garden, a compost and water catchment area, and raised beds for growing watermelons, beets, tomatoes, and more.

“The kids love it out here,” said Kim Stanton, Vocational Trades Instructor.

Guests who attend 501c Day will have the opportunity to meet Kim and several students who have spent many hours in The Garden. They will be helping to prepare and serve appetizers and are willing to share more about The Garden by Build Trybe and the exciting plans for the future.

Goals for The Garden include developing the seating and walking areas to accommodate more public events like 501c Day, building a chicken coop, and expanding the outdoor kitchen area to expand options for outdoor education. Learn more by visiting with our team members and joining us for the Open House.

View the Map

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10 Reasons to Attend the Thyme for Kids Plant Sale This Weekend

April 25, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)

  1. Proceeds from anything you purchase at the Thyme for Kids Plant Sale will support our horticultural therapy and Build Trybe programs by providing seeds, supplies, stipends, and more. By putting your money towards this annual sale, you are choosing to support programs that teach kids to regulate emotions, work together to care for plants and one another, and grow their confidence and creativity in the outdoors.
  2. You will find a wide variety of tried-and-true favorites to jumpstart your summer vegetable garden at the Plant Sale, including watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
  3. You can purchase plants on Friday, April 28, or Saturday, April 29, depending on which day fits your schedule best. Even better, attend the sale on Friday and bring a friend on Saturday to get the best of both worlds.
  4. In addition to purchasing plants at the Thyme for Kids Plant Sale, you can see exactly where your donations are going. Check out the greenhouse where all the magic happens, visit with the youth in our horticulture programs, and meet our incredible program leaders.
  5. Take advantage of the plant experts at the sale who are available to offer tips and tricks for caring for your new transplants. Megan Sperry, Expressive Therapist, has over 20 years of experience running this Plant Sale and a wealth of knowledge to share with growers.
  6. You can become a Plant Sale Sponsor and get early access to the sale on Thursday, April 27. Sponsors also receive a custom garden stepping stone created by Cornerstones of Care youth and other sponsorship benefits.
  7. If you attend the in-person Plant Sale, you can purchase handcrafted wood and metal items from the Build Trybe popup, including plant stands to show off your purchases.
  8. You’ll feel good about your purchase knowing that each plant you bought is of high quality and was intentionally selected by Megan Sperry and planted, watered, and weeded by a team of young hands.
  9. You’ll find some fun new plants at the sale to inspire you to change things up in your backyard. Even if you’ve attended the Plant Sale for years, we constantly update what we have in stock. Some of our new and notable plants include: ‘Evil Olive’ Tomato, ‘Intenz Purple’ Celosia, and ‘Cannova Mango’ Canna Lily.
  10. Rain or shine, the Thyme for Kids Plant Sale will be open for visitors on Friday, April 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 29, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. No matter the weather, take this opportunity to get outside, get your selection of summer plants, and give these kids the joy of sharing what they’ve grown with the community.

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2023 Caring About Community Forum Sets Stage for Strong Year Ahead

April 6, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)  On Wednesday, April 5, attendees gathered over virtual coffee for the 2023 Caring About Community Forum. Merideth Rose, Cornerstones of Care President & CEO, led the 40-minute public forum which highlighted organization-wide achievements from 2022, recognized key people, programs, and projects that impacted the organization, and informed the community about upcoming initiatives and opportunities in 2023.

Merideth began the forum by sharing two short videos, “Cornerstones of Care – About Us” and “22 Ways You Helped Improve Safety and Health in 2022,” to demonstrate the scope of our work in the past year.

“You helped make all of that possible through your support and your donation of time, talent, and treasures,” said Merideth. “Thank you so much.”

She pulled out three statistics from the 22 Things video that spoke to our overall impact as an organization.

  • 126 children were safely reunited with their families
  • 1481 loving homes partnered with us to provide foster care for children
  • 122 youth found forever homes through adoption

“We believe that children belong in homes with families,” said Merideth. “If reunification isn’t an option, then it’s amazing when so many families step up to be foster families or to adopt young people.”

These and other standout statistics, as well as several stories of hope and healing from the past year, are featured in the 2022 Impact Report, now available for download.

In addition to Merideth, several voices from the Cornerstones of Care community also spoke at the Community Forum.

Theo Bunch, Director of Career and Technical Education, shared about the exciting growth and development of the Build Trybe program, a mentorship community that aims to build health and independence by empowering youth with employable skills. In 2022, Cornerstones of Care opened The Shop, a space in Midtown dedicated to the youth exploring woodworking, metalworking, and more.

“Ultimately, thanks to Stanley Black & Decker’s generous support in 2022, The Shop has become a vibrant new space for foster care and homeless youth and a resource for under-resourced communities who would otherwise lack access to a quality fabrication and learning facility,” said Theo.

A success video amplifying the experience of Build Trybe Apprentice Dylan Stephens and his time in the horticulture landscaping program was shared at the 2022 Spirit Gala and again at the Community Forum.

Later this year, Cornerstones of Care will release an updated strategic plan to guide the organization’s future. Karyn Finn, Senior Director of MO Youth Programs & Services and WIDE Initiative Co-Lead, spoke about our organization’s renewed commitment to amplifying our work as a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and equitable place and space for everyone.

“I’m really proud that Cornerstones of Care is not just talking the talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion work, but we’re actually walking the walk,” said Karyn.

Among other things, the WIDE (Welcoming, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity) committee continues to support the formation of employee relations groups to help employees and community members celebrate important cultural events like Women’s History Month, Juneteenth, and Pride Month.

Thanks to generous grants and community support, our WIDE Initiative work in 2023 will be supported by an external consultant, hired to lead the way on several organization-wide priorities. These WIDE 2.0 priorities include targeted training for team members and vital community engagement efforts such as the development of diverse and affirming foster homes to support the needs of kids in foster care.

The third featured speaker was a Cornerstones of Care Governing Board of Directors member, Lexa Zacny, Project Manager with Turner Construction. She spoke about the strong, community-focused culture at Turner Construction and how their team members support Cornerstones of Care through “sweat equity” and monetary support.

To conclude, Merideth shared a vision for the future built around the foundation of our work: purpose, people, and presence. This purpose is driven by our CARE (Courageous Action Requires Everyone) commitment to create a culture where everyone feels valued.

Merideth outlined three ways that individuals can connect with our mission in 2023 by choosing to support us with a financial gift, volunteer with us, or join us at a special event this year.

“As we continue to ask the hard and courageous questions, work to ensure inclusivity and equity in everything we do, and work collaboratively with all of our partners to stretch, to evolve, and to grow, responsively and responsibly, we invite you to stay with us,” said Merideth. “There is room at the table. And great things happen when we work together. And when Cornerstones of Care is in the room.”

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New Program Seeks to Prevent Older Youth from Entering into Foster Care

February 24, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)   -- Beginning this year, Cornerstones of Care is accepting referrals for Parent/Youth Facilitation, a two-pronged, grant-funded approach that seeks to prevent older youth from entering the foster care system by engaging families in a meaningful problem-solving process and connecting them to community services and supports. 

This new collaborative service is made possible by Kansas Strong for Children and Families, a federally-funded initiative through the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Parent/Youth Facilitation (P/YF) process is just one of their strategies to improve outcomes for children and families by supporting the full continuum of child welfare services.

“Cornerstones of Care became interested in participating in the program due to the potential it had to prevent families from entering care due to concerns that might better be resolved within the family when appropriate supports were available,” said Laura Walters, Director of Client Support.                                          

P/YF is provided at no cost to families who qualify through a referral from the local prosecutor’s office. To participate in Parent/Youth Facilitation, families must reside in Wyandotte, Saline, or Shawnee County and be at risk for removal into foster care. Currently, the program is focused on youth ages 14-17.

“No one who supports families in Kansas wants to see a teen enter foster care or any other state system unnecessarily and without less restrictive interventions attempted,” said Justin Horton, Chief Programs & Innovation Officer for Cornerstones of Care.

The process begins with a referral to a prosecutor when a youth is at risk of removal into foster care. Typically, the referral is made by local schools, law enforcement, Department for Children and Families (DCF), community organizations, or other private child welfare agencies. The prosecutor refers eligible families to the Parent/Youth Facilitation process, and the family decides whether they want to participate.

If the parents decide to participate, they partner with Cornerstones of Care for the facilitation services.

Cornerstones of Care has three team members, including Laura, who are working towards their Kansas-Approved Parent-Adolescent Mediator certification. With this certification, they will have specialized training and experience to lead the facilitation process. For one to three sessions, they work with a family to discuss issues such as school attendance and performance, curfew, social life, friends, household chores, privacy, and communication.

Together, they work toward mutually agreed-upon solutions to conflict and develop a written agreement that addresses the family’s specific interpersonal issues and identifies services needed to support the family. Upon completion of the process, the agreement and a summary report are given to the prosecutor and the referring agency.

In short, Parent/Youth Facilitation is an early intervention option for families that may be in conflict or reunifying after a separation. It offers tools for families to work through their challenges with the goal to decrease the number of older youth entering foster care and keep families together whenever possible and appropriate.

“We have been told to expect things to start slow,” said Laura. In other Kansas counties, it has taken some time for families to learn about the new intervention and choose to engage with it. “We will consider success to be navigating the process from start to finish with any families that willingly participate. Eventually, we would hope to increase our expectation for participation.”

Learn more about Parent/Youth Facilitation by visiting our webpage.

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Savor the Sound Fundraiser to Showcase Asian Flavors, Choral Music, and Nature 

January 24, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)  -- On Saturday, February 4, 2023, Savor the Sound returns to 28 Event Space in Kansas City with an immersive one-night-only celebration that fuses music, food, and visual artistry to enchant guests and raise money for Build Trybe, an educational program of Cornerstones of Care.  

The event will be headlined by highly-decorated James Beard award-winning Chef Celina Tio and Calvin Arsenia, internationally-acclaimed singer, harpist, and author. They will be joined this year by VJ Herbert, a composer and sound healer, along with his 10-person new-age gospel and soul choir, Xion Sound Waves. Other featured artists include Evan Tedlock, an animation artist who will project holographic animations inspired by the food and music, Tiffane Friesen, a social practice artist known for her flower mandalas, and Alivia Nuñez, who has built custom glass and wood pieces specifically for the event. Chris Dong is the creative director for Savor the Sound.

“It’s the same story told by different people,” said Theo Bunch, Build Trybe founder and director. “It’s very collaborative.”

A key moment of the creative process for Savor the Sound takes place at The Belfry, a local restaurant owned by Chef Tio. Members of the choir start the day by performing several songs for Celina, each to be the root of one of the evening’s courses. Then, Celina disappears into the kitchen and emerges with two dishes aimed to spark a different sound for the group’s musical interpretation.

VJ and the other singers take their time observing, tasting – even smelling – the eclectic dishes to fully experience them from start to finish, taking notes of the ingredients, textures, and garnishes.

“I wanted to give VJ something spicy to work with,” said Celina. “I always say, ‘great things don’t happen until you put yourself in uncomfortable situations out of your comfort zone.’ His zone is so chill, so I wanted to see what he would give me if I inspired him with spice.”

In the days following the tasting, members of Xion Sound Waves write two songs that will be performed live at Savor the Sound. The musicians won’t try the dessert until show night, after which they will have 20 minutes to write a brand-new composition and perform it for the audience.

This year, Savor the Sound falls on the same weekend as the Lunar New Year, so the event will have a strong Asian influence. The holiday symbolizes reunion and rebirth, encouraging growth and new beginnings – which fits well with the event theme, “Flourish,” and the mission and vision of Build Trybe.

“We rarely get the chance to be present – with our food, our sense of smell, our ears, our conversations,” said Arsenia. “I’m really proud that we get to gather, in support of a great cause, to genuinely enjoy the cross-section of the finest food, music, and visual stimulation this country has to offer! There’s nothing like it. It’s truly magical.”

For those less familiar with Build Trybe, there will be numerous opportunities during Savor the Sound to connect with the program and the youth impacted by it.

Students involved with Build Trybe will work alongside Celina and other professional chefs to prepare, plate, and serve some of the food. During the live auction, guests will bid on a selection of items, including handmade products created by the building trades students. Each attendee will receive a packet of native seeds put together by students in Build Trybe’s conservation landscaping program.

Guests will watch a video highlighting Dylan, a graduate of the conservation landscaping program and an employee of Heartland Conservation Alliance, a Build Trybe partner organization.

“Our youth are dealing with things that most adults would struggle with – placement disruption, lack of support, and lack of community,” said Theo. “Any time a youth graduates with one of my instructors, that is a moment of celebration.”

Savor the Sound is now in its fifth year, and the event planning team hopes to capture the hearts of a new group of people and raise $80,000 for the Build Trybe program.

“Savor the Sound is a celebration of what we’ve done the year before, and it’s planting the seed and building the foundation for the year to come,” said Theo. “I want people to leave feeling like they are part of something bigger – like they are building a strong place for our youth and a strong Kansas City.”

Visit the Savor the Sound event page to purchase tickets or sponsorships. Or sign up to volunteer at the event. If you cannot attend but still want to support Build Trybe, you can donate on our website.

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KC Restaurant Week to Benefit Cornerstones of Care

January 12, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)   -- Cornerstones of Care is the featured beneficiary for the 14th Annual Kansas City Restaurant Week, which will run from January 13 to January 22, 2023. This 10-day dining event features over 200 Kansas City-area restaurants offering pre-fixe multi-course menus for restaurant-goers of all types. Participating restaurants pledge to donate 10 percent of sales from each meal to the featured beneficiary, as well as two founding beneficiaries, the Visit KC Foundation and the Greater KC Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

Cornerstones of Care has selected the Build Trybe Seed to Plate program as the primary recipient of the proceeds from KC Restaurant Week. The Seed to Plate program teaches youth how to grow and cook healthy fruits and vegetables, preparing them for life outside Cornerstones of Care. In 2023, program leaders hope to expand the Seed to Plate program to include more growing space and an advanced culinary track for youth to become proficient in cooking. To learn more about Build Trybe’s Seed to Plate program and the plans for 2023, read our latest blog.

“We are honored that Cornerstones of Care’s Build Trybe culinary program has been selected as the beneficiary for 2023 Kansas City Restaurant Week,” said President and CEO Merideth Rose. “Our mission is to build safe and healthy communities, and we’re proud to benefit from Kansas City’s strong restaurant community. We are eager to educate the next generation of culinary artists through Build Trybe’s program.”

To help promote Restaurant Week, President and CEO Merideth Rose participated in several media opportunities, including the KC Cares podcast that will air this Friday and on “Give Back Friday” on radio station 90.9 The Bridge. Cornerstones of Care is also hosting a raffle drawing on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media platforms to encourage individuals to dine out and support Cornerstones of Care. Participants can win local restaurant gift cards and kitchen items crafted by our Build Trybe youth.

To see a comprehensive list of participating restaurants and menus, visit or download the KC Restaurant Week App.

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Cornerstones of Care Headquarters Move to Gillis Campus

Kansas City location to provide centralized office space for Executive Leadership Team 

Gillis CampusJanuary 4, 2023 (KANSAS CITY, MO)  -- As of January 2023, Cornerstones of Care will officially transition its headquarters to the Gillis Campus. Located in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, the Gillis Campus will provide centralized office space for all Executive Leadership Team members. Other team members housed at the Hyde Park office will also relocate to the Gillis Campus and the Kansas City, Kansas office. This exciting development allows Cornerstones of Care to utilize valuable unclaimed office space and create more synergy and collaboration between team members in the Kansas City area.

Cornerstones of Care currently delivers programming and services to over 15,000 children and families from 16 locations in eastern Kansas and northern Missouri. The Gillis Campus is home to one of two educational day treatment schools that serves students ages 6-19 who require an intensive combination of special education and therapy services. It also provides essential space for board meetings, community conversations, and various classes and trainings for foster parents, youth in foster care, mental and behavioral health professionals, and adult and child caregivers.  

Cornerstones of Care is dedicated to helping children and families wherever they are, whenever they need us. To stay connected to what is happening at Cornerstones of Care, follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter. If you have questions regarding the Gillis Campus headquarters move, please contact us directly by calling 816-508-3500.

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Cornerstones of Care Announces Market Rate Pay Increases in 2023

Organization Looks to Attract and Retain Talent in Challenging Job Market

CARE logo. Courageous Action Requires Everyone.December 16, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) -- The Cornerstones of Care Board of Directors voted on December 14 to significantly invest in a 2023 compensation package that will make many key positions in the organization’s workforce competitive in the current challenging job market.  

Key positions, ranging from hourly workers to specialists, case managers and therapists, will receive salary increases, which will cover new and current employees. Cornerstones of Care employs more than 700 team members, primarily in Kansas and Missouri. Salary increases will become effective in January, and a listing of all currently open positions can be found here 

“The decision to invest in our people is absolutely necessary,” said Merideth Rose, Cornerstones of Care President and CEO. “Today, the board saw what needed to be done, stood up, and accepted the challenge. I greatly appreciate their courageous action.” 

Ms. Rose, who was named President and CEO in July, said the decision to increase compensation is the organization’s commitment to the three Ps: purpose, people, and presence. Compensation at the organization and within the social services sector has made hiring and retention challenging as the workforce evolves from the pandemic.  

“Our Executive Leadership Team is fully committed to our people, and the extraordinary work they do,” Ms. Rose said. “We made sure that if our team members were dedicated to the work we do, that our leadership would be dedicated to ensuring they are properly compensated.” 

In addition to salary increases, a portion of the investment will cover increasing health insurance costs. The leadership team budgeted to cover the 15 percent market rate increase in insurance costs to ensure that team members won’t have to pay more for their premiums in 2023. 

The investment also includes resources for the expansion and implementation of Cornerstones of Care’s inclusion, diversity, and equity commitment, which began in 2020. Today’s announcement is part of the organization’s rally cry related to its purpose, Courageous Action Require Everyone (CARE).  

“CARE is our driving imperative, or our ‘must do’ for next year and beyond,” Ms. Rose said. “I define it as inspiring a culture of ‘all in’ courageous leadership where everyone lifts, everyone leads, everyone performs, and everyone is accountable.” 

The CARE commitment includes being more present in the communities Cornerstones of Care serves and highlighting the positive things that take place with the children and families the organization serves.  

“We want that visibility to reflect our commitment to our team members, the families we serve, and to continue to partner to build safer, healthier communities,” Ms. Rose said.  

Press Release Archives

Cherry Street Holiday Market & Party to Showcase Build Trybe Handmade Goods and Local Vendors

Cherry Street Holiday Market RaffleDecember 7, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) -- The Shop at Build Trybe will co-host the Cherry Street Holiday Market & Party, a festive open house featuring local food, fine arts, and homemade items, including a selection of handcrafted wood and metal home goods created by apprentices in the Build Trybe program.

The event is co-hosted by the Cherry Pit Collective, a communal studio space for women and non-binary artists, makers, and creatives, which will showcase additional vendors next door. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, holiday shoppers can peruse over 20 unique local vendors like Pantry GoodsHoney & LusterDona Fina Café, and many more.

“It’s always good to have community members see the space and learn about what we do,” said Kendell Harbin, the Build Trybe Building Trades Manager. “It’s also a way to celebrate local makers in Kansas City. Hosting [the event] here is another way of giving back to other people who have hosted us.” 

New this year is an online holiday raffle featuring five raffle packages. Each package is specially curated by Cornerstones of Care team members and filled with local gift cards and goodies from places like Cafe Cà PhêBar K, and Charlie Hustle. All proceeds from the raffle go directly to Build Trybe, and winners do not need to be present to win. Winners will be announced live at the event and listed on the Cornerstones of Care website on Monday, December 12.

This is the second year that Build Trybe will participate in the holiday market, but the first year that the space is fully operated by Build Trybe. A year ago, the Building Trades program was a member of Maker Village, a community wood and metal fabrication shop. Today, Build Trybe’s logo is proudly displayed on the wall, and youth in the Building Trades path receive paid, on-the-job training that sets them up for future stability and prepares them for employment opportunities in the community. 

On Saturday, the Build Trybe apprentices that build the cutting boards, plant stands, coasters, and other products on sale will be busy at work – handling transactions and floating around the space to answer questions and ensure that guests find what they need.

“It’s a very valuable piece of curriculum for them in terms of learning and at least getting a little sampling of sales and marketing,” said Harbin. “It motivates them in their work to see that business side.”

For the general public, the Cherry Street Holiday Market & Party is an opportunity to give back to the community and support youth in the Build Trybe program who may be aging out of foster care, houseless, or lacking critical support. It’s also an excellent opportunity for families to get their Christmas shopping done in a way that celebrates and strengthens local artists and vendors in Kansas City.

The Cherry Street Holiday Market & Party is this Saturday, December 10, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the corner of 31st and Cherry. Raffle tickets are now available for purchase. To see a complete list of vendors, visit the Cherry Pit Collective Facebook page.

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Volunteers Needed to Bring Holiday Happiness to NASB's North Pole

This December, Cornerstones of Care will partner with corporate and individual sponsors and community volunteers to distribute gifts to more than 1,000 Kansas City-area children and families at no cost to them.

November 29, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) -- Between now and the end of the year, an empty storefront in Leawood, Kansas, will be transformed into NASB’s North Pole, a holiday destination that provides gifts to more than 1,000 Kansas City-area children and families at no cost to them. For over twenty years, Cornerstones of Care has partnered with corporate and individual sponsors and community volunteers to distribute gifts via the Gift Gallery and Sponsor-A-Youth program. For the second year, North American Savings Bank (NASB) is the presenting sponsor of the North Pole and will help ensure that over 200 families are able to enjoy the holidays this year.

“Part of our giving mission is supporting women and children,” said Jenn Cantrell, NASB’s Director of Communications and Community Relations. “It perfectly aligns with what we’re trying to do in the community.”

From purchasing and donating toys in November to shopping with visiting families and hand-wrapping gifts in December, NASB’s North Pole requires a mighty team of committed volunteers to make it all happen.

“Christmas is a time when our most vulnerable can feel even more isolated and unsupported,” said Courtney Craig, now in her fourth year of volunteering with the event.

As part of the Elf Committee, Courtney has helped recruit volunteers, publicize the event, sort gifts, and assist in other areas. In the past few years, she has witnessed a significant increase in the number of children and families served by this holiday event as Cornerstones of Care has expanded its services and picked up more contracts. In 2018, 397 kids were served by the Gift Gallery and Sponsor-A-Youth program. Just three years later, the number of kids who received gifts from these programs more than tripled to 1,200.

“This event is being asked every year to take care of more kids,” said Courtney. “I think it’s really important to stress how far we’ve come in a very short time, but we always need help.”

Starting early in November, volunteers are needed to “help fill Santa’s bags” by purchasing gifts for the Sponsor-A-Youth program. Those who sign up to sponsor a youth in foster care agree to provide items from a youth’s personalized holiday wish list. Key BankCommunity Christian Church, and Red Bags are among those who contribute their time and effort to provide gifts for the Sponsor-a-Youth program. Volunteers can also purchase gifts for the Gift Gallery, a three-day holiday shopping opportunity that serves families who participate in Cornerstones of Care’s community-based programs, such as the Day Treatment Schools on the Gillis and Ozanam Campuses.

Once most of the gifts have been purchased and delivered to NASB’s North Pole, the first few weeks of December are a frenzied, festive sprint to the finish line. From December 7-9, volunteers sign up to sort gifts and set up the venue to make it shoppable and welcoming for families. This year, NASB’s North Pole will take place at a new, larger venue with more space for shopping and storage, thanks to a donation from Block Real Estate and 133 State Line Group LLC.

Two days later, the Gift Gallery will officially open its doors and be filled with shoppers from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. From December 14-16, volunteers will partner with the visiting families as they shop and move through the store, helping them select three gifts for each child. In addition to toys, families receive a selection of basic needs items, including coats, hats, and clothing.

The final act of this holiday extravaganza is wrapping gifts for youth in the residential treatment programs on the Ozanam Campus. Gifts for the youth in foster care are personally delivered to about 1,000 families by Cornerstones of Care case managers and other team members. Once each present has been safely delivered, the clean-up begins.

“It’s not a burden,” Courtney said. “It’s about providing that space of dignity and offering these services without a pitying look. It’s about making sure all these kids are going to have a Christmas morning and that parents can pick out gifts for their kids.”

If you’re looking for an opportunity to spread some holiday cheer this year, sign up to volunteer with NASB’s North Pole or purchase gifts for the Gift Gallery or Sponsor-A-Youth Program. You can also make a monetary donation which will be used to purchase gifts on your behalf.

“Every person should feel seen and heard and celebrated,” said Courtney. “Serving on the Elf Committee allows me to look at my fellow human beings and tell them that in this world where you can feel alone, someone cares about you.”

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40th Anniversary Spirit Gala Brings In $438,000 for Cornerstones of Care

This was the first Spirit Gala for President & CEO, Merideth Rose, who joined the team in July.

The 40th Anniversary Ruby Celebration of the Spirit Gala was a glowing success for Cornerstones of Care, raising a record-breaking $438,000 to fund essential programs and services for children and families in our community. The annual event was held at the Overland Park Convention Center on Friday, November 11. Despite the chilly outdoor temperature, 572 guests gathered in The Ballroom, vested in various shades of sparkling red, to celebrate the collective generosity and care of the community, share stories about the impact of these gifts, and raise a glass to the Spirit Award recipients and honorees.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and energy we witnessed in the room at this year's Spirit Gala,” said Chad Harris, Chief Development Officer at Cornerstones of Care. “While we do our work one child and family at a time, that work is made possible one donor and one contribution at a time – so to see what can be achieved when community members come together to make a collective financial impact for our mission, it is extremely rewarding.”

This was the first Spirit Gala for Cornerstones of Care President & CEO, Merideth Rose, who joined the team in July. Rose was accompanied by several family members, including her husband, Michael Rose, as well as more than 70 Cornerstones of Care team members. In her speech, Rose spoke about the warm welcome she has received in her first three months with the organization and the work the leadership team has done thus far.    

“Our team is reestablishing a commitment to our purpose,” said Rose. “We’re ensuring that our people have the tools and resources they need to work effectively. We’re dedicating intentional focus to harnessing the power of storytelling to underscore the impact of our work, and we’re enhancing our presence in the community. This is our driving imperative: simply, to care.”

The power of storytelling was evident that night as attendees learned firsthand about Jacob, a former participant of the Pathways Transitional Living Program, a supportive, transitional housing program for teens transitioning out of foster care. Following the two-minute video, attendees gave $117,000 to Cornerstones of Care during the Fund-A-Need, another record-breaking feat. Earlier in the evening, the thrilling live auction raised $40,450, thanks in part to a donation of two sets of club-level Kansas City Chiefs 2023-24 season tickets.

There were many reasons to celebrate at the Spirit Gala’s Ruby Celebration. Honored this year as the Spirit Award recipients were two dynamic duos: Sean and Karen Miller and Kevin and Cathay Perz of Dynamic Fastener. Cornerstones of Care also recognized Honorary Chairs, Natalie and Kyle Hartman. The Spirit Award has a rich history in the Kansas City community and is a celebration of the individuals who have made a substantial impact on the legacy of Cornerstones of Care and on our city.

“We are indeed proud of our history, but we are even more excited about our future,” said Rose. “A future that is focused on responding to the needs of the communities we serve through prevention and healing treatment services, foster care and adoption, and education.”

Rose went on to acknowledge the donors and sponsors, including presenting sponsors, Dynamic Fastener and North American Savings Bank (NASB), that contributed to the success of the 2022 Spirit Gala and the ongoing work of Cornerstones of Care.

“Indeed, our work matters,” said Rose, “and it is creating a new, healthy reality for generations to come.”


If you missed your opportunity to attend the Raise Your Spirit Gala, you can still make a donation to help support the 15,000 children and families served by Cornerstones of Care. 

You can also purchase tickets for our next fundraiser, Savor the Sound, which will be held on Saturday, February 4 at 28 Event Space. Hosted by internationally-acclaimed musician and author, Calvin Arsenia, Savor the Sound is an immersive event for all the senses, featuring a menu by James Beard award-winning Chef Celina Tio. Proceeds benefit the Build Trybe program. 

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Jackson County Voters to Decide on Tax Increase for Children’s Mental Health

Cornerstones of Care CEO, Merideth Rose, and Local Nonprofit Leaders Endorse 'Yes' Vote

Meredith Rose CSF RenewalNovember 4, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) – On November 8, Jackson County voters will have the opportunity to renew the Jackson County Children’s Services Fund (CSF), which will expand support of critical mental health programs for Jackson County youth. If approved, the ballot measure would extend the county sales tax and adjust it to one-fourth-of-a-cent. The extension of the tax will provide significant support for at-risk children and teens, including those who are turned away from mental health institutions, shelters, and other social services due to a lack of funding for these programs.

Since 2018, the CSF has awarded $68 million to area non-profit organizations. Cornerstones of Care has received more than $2.6 million from the CSF to fund critical staff positions for the Family Functional Therapy (FFT) and School-Based Solutions (SBS) programs. Each year, the FFT program provides in-home therapy services for up to 63 families to keep youth out of juvenile detention and residential facilities and at home with their families. The SBS program provides behavioral screenings for more than 300 elementary youth in the Grandview School District. As a result, families are referred to case management and therapy services to address their specific needs.

On October 19, the Cornerstones of Care Governing Board of Directors officially endorsed the renewal of the CSF. The next day, representatives from local nonprofits that receive support from the CSF gathered in Independence to celebrate the impact and success of the Fund.

“We had CEOs from Community Services League, CSF, Child Abuse Prevention Association, Cornerstones of Care, Comprehensive Mental Health, Drumm Farm, Foster Adopt Connect, Truman Heartland Community Foundation, and United Way,” said Merideth Rose, President & CEO of Cornerstones of Care. “Our goal was to issue a rallying cry of support for this fund and to encourage voters to vote ‘yes’ on Question 1 on Election Day.”

For more information on the Jackson County Children’s Services Fund, visit the Children's Services Fund of Jackson County. To find your polling location and information about candidates and issues on the ballot, visit Missouri’s Voter Outreach Center.

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Cornerstones of Care Names Merideth Rose New President/CEO

Rose Brings Experience from Community Services League and Independence School District

July 7, 2022 (KANSAS CITY, MO) -- Merideth Rose has been named the President and CEO of Cornerstones of Care and will begin at the agency on July 25th.

Rose comes to Cornerstones of Care from the Community Services League in Independence, Mo., where she served as the Chief People Officer. Prior to that, she was Director of Neighborhood, Family Services, and Caring Communities for the Independence School District. At Cornerstones of Care, Rose replaces Denise Cross, who stepped away from her role in March.

The hiring was the culmination of a CEO search that began in March. The search committee identified Rose’s experience, passion and commitment to youth and families, which is well suited to lead Cornerstones of Care.

“We were looking for someone with experience and compassion to execute our strategic plan and carry out our vision,” said Cornerstones of Care Board Chair Julie Barnett. “Merideth has all of the qualities we wanted.”

At Community Services League, Rose joined the board in 2020 and helped lead the organization through the pandemic. In 2021, Rose joined the staff in a key leadership position as Chief People Officer. Her work there included oversight of the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Community Services League CEO Doug Cowan said in an email to CSL staff that he normally would be sad to see someone like Rose leave the organization but was pleased to see her use her leadership skills as a President and CEO.

“As I said at the beginning, she has ‘it.’ She was born to be a leader, and to change lives,” Cowan wrote to his staff.  “I’m glad that CSL was part of her journey, and she has created a lasting impact on this organization.”

At the Independence School District, Rose led initiatives to provide support services to students and families and aid them to self-sufficiency. Rose oversaw 35 licensed social workers and case managers to support students from pre-school to 12th grade. She led efforts to reduce barriers to student success, including domestic violence, homelessness, abuse and neglect.

“Cornerstones of Care is a leader in foster care and adoption, supporting youth and families, and educating our community,” Rose said. “It is an indescribable honor to be selected as the next caretaker for such a phenomenal organization, and it is an assignment I do not take lightly.”

Rose also served communities as the Public Affairs Officer for the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In that role, she served as principal advisor and Deputy to the External Affairs Director on public information involving the development and delivery of both emergency and non-emergency information programs to federal, state and local government officials, the public, news media and the emergency management community. During times of nationally declared disasters, Rose led cross-functional emergency response and recovery teams for FEMA, including the Agency’s largest Community Relations deployment in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, in which Rose was responsible for the operational management of more than 1,300 disaster reservists.

Rose’s work with the Community Service League included overseeing diversity, equity, and inclusion for the organization, which will fit with Cornerstones of Care’s DEI commitment. Chief Development Officer Chad Harris, who served as Cornerstones of Care’s interim CEO, said he is looking forward to the continued commitment to the organization’s DEI work.

“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is an important organizational value,” Harris said. “We will continue to enhance our commitment to all people we serve.”

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Cornerstones of Care’s Denise Cross Announces Transition from President/CEO Role, Reflects on 15 Years of Serving Children and Families

Chief Development Officer Chad Harris Named to Interim Leadership Role

Feb. 1, 2022 (KANSAS CITY) — After nearly 15 years of serving as Cornerstone of Care President & CEO, Denise Cross has announced her decision to step down from the executive leadership role, effective March 11, 2022. 

In sharing this news with the agency’s team members and community partners, Cross said, “It has truly been an honor to lead this amazing organization and work alongside so many dedicated, caring individuals.” Cross continued, “As an organization, we have had the opportunity to annually impact the lives of more than 17,000 children and families across Missouri and Kansas—what an incredible and rewarding accomplishment!”

“As we emerge from the uncertainties the pandemic has presented the past two years, the organization is well poised to provide strength and stability to children and families through this transition and beyond. This is truly an exciting time for our team, our partners and the people we serve,” Cross said.  

“Cornerstones of Care is what it is today—a leader in trauma-informed care, in communities across the Heartland that helps children and families heal—thanks to Denise’s exemplary leadership as our President and CEO these last 15 years,” said Julie Barnett, chair of the agency’s Board of Directors. “We are so appreciative of Denise’s passionate commitment to children. Her professional contributions will have a lasting positive impact on thousands of lives.” 

Under Cross’ leadership, the agency experienced remarkable growth and milestone achievements in supporting children and families. Highlights during her tenure include:

  • Achievement of certification in trauma-informed care from the Sanctuary Institute, becoming one of the first agencies in the region to hold this designation.
  • Successful merger of five agencies (Cornerstones of Care, Gillis, Marillac, Ozanam and Spofford) and legal affiliation with Cornerstones of Care in 2017, with a focus on better care for children and families through service integration and providing a continuum of treatment.
  • The vision, collaboration, build and launch of Homeroom Health, a pediatric health center at 30th and Troost with KC CARE Health Center, the first of its kind to provide integrated medical, dental, behavioral and social healthcare in one location.
  • Expansion of community-based prevention, treatment and case management services in northern Missouri and eastern Kansas.
  • Three-year partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs as the beneficiary of the Chiefs Charity Game raising $1.6 million for evidence-based approaches to care.
  • Advocacy and public policy support in Jackson County, Topeka and Jefferson City, resulting in the passage of the Jackson County Children’s Service Fund, expansion of Medicaid in Missouri, and implementation and allocation of funding from the Family First Prevention Services Act.
  • Leadership in the organization’s response to COVID-19, focusing on the safety and well-being of team members and the children and families served.
  • And, celebration of the agency’s 150-year milestone, through the “Forward, Together” campaign.

To ensure a smooth transition, a search committee has been established comprised of current Board members. Further, the Board will work to involve senior leaders and key community partners in the search process. In the coming weeks, the Board will retain an executive search firm to assist in helping identify the next President/CEO for Cornerstones of Care. To support the leadership transition, the Board has named Chad Harris, Chief Development Officer, as Interim President & CEO.

“We thank Chad for agreeing to expand upon his leadership role with the agency during this transition,” Barnett said. “He and Denise will work closely with the Board and executive leadership team to maintain continuity with the high level of care we provide.”

In closing her remarks to Cornerstones of Care’s team members, Cross shared, “I am very blessed to have had such a rewarding professional experience at Cornerstones of Care and know you will have many more successes in the future. With much appreciation, thank you.”

From Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Denise Cross Regarding Our Diversity Statement

September 15, 2021

Cornerstones of Care believes in communities where children, families and team members feel safe, respected, and comfortable being themselves and expressing all aspects of their identities – a place where each person shares a sense of belonging. We have worked with team members, clients, stakeholders and volunteers to create a diversity statement that defines our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality.

  • We partner for safe and healthy communities.
  • We cultivate a culture in which children, families, team members, volunteers, donors, and community partners feel welcomed, safe, respected, empowered, and celebrated.
  • We value diversity of race, religion, color, age, sex, national origin or citizenship status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, geographical location, pregnancy, disability, neurodiversity, socio-economic, and military status.
  • We stand for anti-racism, equity, and inclusivity.
  • We insist and affirm that discrimination and violence have no place in safe and healthy communities, including in our organization.
  • We strive toward a more welcoming, inclusive, diverse, and equitable organization through our policies, partnerships, and practices.


Statement by Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Denise Cross to Cornerstones of Care Supporters Regarding Recent Protests.

June 3, 2020

The death of George Floyd that spurred protests across the nation has left us devastated. In helping people heal from all types of trauma every day, we recognize feelings—real feelings—and the anger in our country is real. It is an outcome of generations of inequality and injustice that must come to an end.
As a behavioral health organization certified in trauma-informed care by Sanctuary Model®, we are guided by Seven Trauma-Informed Commitments of nonviolence, social intelligence, social learning, open communication, democracy, social responsibility and growth and change. Embracing these commitments drives safety, health, compassion, empathy and inclusion in the communities we serve.
Further, our Trauma-Informed Commitments inform our Advocacy Principles, which you see reflected in the work we do, including our advocacy for public policy priorities that:
  • reduce the incidence and impact of trauma;
  • create a safe and healing environment that respects dignity and inclusion;
  • build community to transform systems and individual lives; and
  • take risks in pursuit of valuable gains.
Each of these principles speak to the change we want to see. 
But it is not enough to take comfort that we are on the side of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion right now. We must work for change in whatever way each of us can. Change happens through relationships. Become a mentor, volunteer, contact your local, state and federal policy makers, lift up your voice.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

June 10, 2020
Cornerstones of Care Is Awarded Grant from GENYOUth's COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Fund 

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Statement by Cornerstones of Care President and CEO Denise Cross to Cornerstones of Care Supporters Regarding COVID-19.

March 17, 2020

As an important stakeholder to our organization, I’d like to provide an update on the heightened policies and practices we are implementing to ensure the safety and health of our children, families and staff during this time.

  • Continuously Monitoring & Adapting
    Our leadership team, including a staff-appointed Communicable/Infectious Disease Officer, is closely monitoring local, state, regional and federal best practices and recommendations and adapting to meet the specifics needs of our organization and the children and families we partner with. Every day, we learn more and consider new ways to safely do our work, including the use of technology to minimize in-person meetings.
  • Collaboration with State Partners
    We’re working closely with the Kansas Department for Children and Families and Missouri Children’s Division to continue meeting the needs of children and families while keeping our staff, children and families safe. Our team is providing CDC recommendations and guidance to families on the best ways to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Limiting Exposure
    In addition to more sanitation supplies and practicing social distancing, we’ve canceled all out-of-state travel and paused all non-essential travel for the next 45 days. We’ve also paused all volunteer activities and mentor meetings on our campuses. All staff are submitting symptoms they may be experiencing to the Communicable/Infectious Disease Officer to help understand impact and provide individualized direction on next steps.
  • Implementing Screenings
    On-campus staff are screening visitors (parents/guardians) with CDC-recommended questions to ensure the safety of our schools and residential facilities. Community-based staff are utilizing the same screening questions to understand the safety of a home prior to visiting. Technology continues to be evaluated as temporary tools for providing services.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at Thank you for your continued support of the 15,000 children and families we partner with every day.

See our staff in action! Staff have been sharing stories of how they are still fulfilling their work on the front lines and helping families who are now facing food, child care, employment and transportation insecurities. Read some of their first-hand accounts.