Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye, 2009!

As we say goodbye to 2009, here are a few of my favorite highlights from the year:
  • Welcome new families! In state fiscal year 2009, Iowa gained 532 new foster and adoptive families! Thanks to those who made this decision to help Iowa kids in such a unique way. Iowa's need for more foster and adoptive families will continue to be ongoing as kids continue to enter foster care and families leave the system.

  • Adoption Support. We connected more families with post-adoption support services and appointed adoption champions throughout the state to help form support networks for adoptive parents. Another awesome highlight was the support retreats that were held in several service areas for adoptive families.

  • Lights, camera, action. We added video interviews to our web site of some of the children who are waiting to be adopted in Iowa. Go here to meet some of them.

  • Ballpark bash for National Foster Care Month. Families from across the state joined us for a night of baseball and fun at the Iowa Cubs to honor foster families and children during May's National Foster Care Month. Danielle, daughter of a foster and adoptive family, threw out the first pitch!

  • Family Connections. Iowa KidsNet received an exciting three-year federal grant as part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. This particular grant will fund intensive efforts to locate relatives and help reestablish relationships for children who are at risk of or on the verge of entering foster care. The goal is to increase extended family support for kids and avoid or reduce the need for them to stay in foster care.

  • Adoption Saturday. Adoption Saturday was a success across the state, with events held in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Ottumwa and Sioux City. Congratulations to all the families and children who finalized adoptions on this special day!

None of the good things that happened in 2009 could have been possible without many partners and the dedicated hearts of many Iowa families. We are so thankful for you! Here's wishing you a Happy New Year's and a brilliant and beautiful start to 2010.

What are some of things you were thankful for in 2009? Leave a comment, and let us know!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A gift of love for children in foster care

Here’s a great holiday story to warm you up during this winter weather! For the past several years, a group of women in Des Moines have been gathering together to make Christmas extra special for some of Iowa’s children who are waiting to be adopted from foster care. Women from the Circle of Support group of the Fifth District Department of Correctional Services and community volunteers create a handmade Christmas stocking stuffed with small gifts for the children.

The Circle of Support is a project that brings together former offenders, now on parole or probation, with volunteers from the community. It helps them reenter the community and offers support during the transition. The stocking project becomes a way for these women to give back to the community and helps them continue on their road to recovery.

The group finished this year’s stockings in early December. Each of the handmade stockings has the child’s name cross-stitched on it. For one woman who took part in last year’s project, the experience was particularly meaningful. “I was a foster child myself in 1993,” she said, “and I didn’t get to have something so precious and personal like these kids have gotten. I was proud to be part of this experience.”

What a great statement of love to these kids that the community cares about them, especially during this holiday season! If you want to meet some of the children in Iowa who are waiting to be adopted from foster care, you can see some of their bios, videos and photos on our web site.

Hope everyone stays safe during this next round of winter weather! Does your family have a favorite holiday tradition this time of year?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Parties that help kids!

So by now, you may have attended a holiday party or two, or have one coming up as we close out the year! But have you ever attended a party that helps children in foster care?

One new and really exciting tool we have to help recruit foster parents and raise awareness about the needs of children in our communities is the Fosterware Party. If you've ever been to a Tupperware or purse party, the concept is fairly similar - it's just an informal, fun gathering. In this case though, your guests won't leave with a bowl or a bag, but with some new knowledge about foster care.

The host can be a foster parent or simply someone with a heart for kids (it's always good to have a current foster parent in attendance to answer questions though).

You help form the guest list, inviting friends, family, colleagues, neighbors or anyone you know who has an interest in supporting kids and families in your community. Iowa KidsNet provides all your materials. Some of my favorite things in the kit are the games - they educate you on foster care in a fun and creative way. There's one where you brainstorm advice for different situations that children in foster care may experience. You might be surprised to find that you have just what it takes to support these kids!

It's a fun way to share about the myths and facts around foster care, what the need is in your backyard and other info that will hopefully either inspire your guests to explore becoming a foster or adoptive parent or educate them so they can spread the word.

Want to throw a Fosterware Party in your neighborhood? Touch base with one of our Iowa KidsNet family recruiters, and they'll help you get started!

Hope everyone stayed safe during the blizzard yesterday! If you had a snow day at home, did you do anything fun?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, I'm really thankful for Iowa's great foster and adoptive parents.

This past weekend was all about joy and thankfulness as we celebrated Adoption Saturday events in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Ottumwa. Click on the cities to read a few of the great stories that celebrated these kids and families last weekend.

We heard stories of a 16-year-old adopted who will now alw
ays have a place to call home. We heard stories of a sibling group of five children adopted who will now always get to stay together. We saw young children adopted who will now have a safe place to grow up and learn and laugh.

Amidst twinkle lights and violin music, cookies and courtrooms, heartbreaking poems and heartfelt speeches, we saw what beautiful things can happen when everyday people open their hearts and homes to a child. These kids and youth have some tough stories in their past, but with support from loving and caring adults they can write any story they want for their future.

Even if you can't commit to becoming a foster or adoptive parent, there are many things you can do all year long to help support children in foster care. Host a weekend at your faith community dedicated to raising awareness about the needs of children in your neighborhood. Volunteer at a local agency that supports youth in foster care. Host the Heart Gallery of Iowa, a photo exhibit of waiting children, at your local library or city hall. We can all do something to help make a difference!

So, to all the individuals across the state who worked so hard to make Adoption Saturday events a special day, and to all the children and parents who became part of new forever families - thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A coffee break with Kris

For today's coffee break, I'm excited to chat with Kris, a foster and adoptive mother from the Sioux City Service Area. Our coffee break is a regular feature when we talk with different folks from around the state involved in foster care and adoption. Kris's family took part in Sioux City's first ever Adoption Saturday last weekend and adopted a sibling group of two young boys!

First, congrats on being part of Adoption Saturday! How would you sum up the atmosphere at the courthouse?
It was great! Festive, and there were lots of really good speakers during the program. I really enjoyed how one adoptee talked about how when she went to her adoptive home, her mother made sure she stayed connected with her Native American heritage and culture.

The best part of the day?
That would be our actual adoption. And I have to add, our adoption worker is amazing!

You've been doing foster care for years. Any favorite stories?
I think our best moment in foster care was when a baby came to us from a hospital. We had him for seven months, and during that time his mother was incarcerated. When she came to pick him up at their reunification, he had never seen her but he just laid his head on her shoulder like he had known her forever. It was so great to see, and great to see someone who had turned her life around.

I love that story! Any words of advice for future foster and adoptive parents?
Take advantage of classes and training.

Thanks Kris for sharing a bit about this special day! And a big thanks to all the individuals in Sioux City who worked so hard to bring Adoption Saturday to northwest Iowa. This weekend Iowa has four other Adoption Saturday events coming up in Ames, Cedar Rapids (held on Friday, Nov. 20), Council Bluffs, and Des Moines.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 6, 2009

You don't have to be perfect

Let's end this Friday with a laugh! If you haven't already seen some of these videos from the national campaign "You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent," they're definitely worth taking a minute to watch. Here's a few with more available at their web site.

I love this campaign, which points out that kids in foster care don't need perfection - they just need you! You can also visit their web site to send an e-card to a friend or parent for National Adoption Month.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Celebrating the joy of adoption

All over the state we’re gearing up for National Adoption Month and Adoption Saturday events. This week I had the opportunity to attend a local proclamation signing at a city hall, declaring November 21 as National Adoption Day.

It’s exciting to see local communities, along with foster and adoptive families and child welfare agencies, embrace the spirit of National Adoption Month.

On this same night a local domestic violence and assault shelter had set up long rows of white chairs outside the city hall. Each one represented a person lost to domestic violence in our state within the last several years. Each one had a story taped to it about a person who should still be here, who should not be forgotten.

It was a powerful message. The thing that sticks with me the most, however, is not the chairs, not the stories. It’s the voice I heard down the street of a parent talking to someone with the shelter.

I heard his voice in the quiet night tell her that each one of his foster and adopted children had lost someone to domestic violence.

There are a lot of tough stories in the child welfare field. But National Adoption Month is truly a time for joy. We get to celebrate how, despite very painful circumstances, despite difficult beginnings, adoption can be part of changing lives.

We see courtrooms transformed by balloons and stuffed animals. We see the first photo taken of a new forever family. We see sibling groups who now know they get to stay together always, and teens who now know they will have a family to help guide them into adulthood.

As we kick off a month of celebration, thanks to all our families, caseworkers, advocates, volunteers and staff members who have helped touch the life of a child through adoption.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Myths of foster care adoption

November's National Adoption Month is right around the corner! It's a time to raise awareness about the 129,000 children in our country who are waiting to be adopted. Some of them wait as long as five years to find their forever family, which can feel like a lifetime to a child.

So, what can you do to help as we gear up for Adoption Month? One of the first things you can do is learn the facts, like some of the myths of foster care adoption. According to the 2007 National Foster Care Adoption Attitudes Survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, many of us have misperceptions about adoption from foster care:

45% of Americans think children in foster care enter the system because of juvenile delinquency.
Reality: Children enter the system after experiencing neglect, abandonment or abuse.

46% of Americans think foster care adoption is expensive.
Reality: Foster care adoption is not expensive, and financial support is available.

67% of Americans considering adoption think the biological parents could take the child back.

Reality: Once a child is legally available for adoption, the birth parents no longer have parental rights to the child.

As much as National Adoption Month is a time to raise awareness, it's also a time to simply celebrate the joy that adoption brings. One day that is definitely all about the joy is Adoption Saturday, a national day when courts open their doors to finalize thousands of adoptions for children in foster care. Iowa will host five Adoption Saturday events this year in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines and Sioux City (for the first time!). Check out this great video from National Adoption Day showing what this "one day" is truly all about.

How do you plan to celebrate Adoption Month? Leave a comment and let us know!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

10 Reasons to Foster Teens

I got a “save the date” email recently about Elevate’s upcoming conference in February (Feb. 13 at ISU!).

If you haven’t heard about Elevate, it’s an amazing program driven by Iowa youth who have been involved in foster care, adoption or other out-of-home placements. They share their powerful stories to educate people, to advocate for legislative changes, and to raise awareness about the need for homes for teens in foster care.

If you have a moment, please read some of their poems and their stories. I guarantee you will be inspired! (You may want to grab a box of tissues first.)

Our state should be so proud of these creative young leaders. It can be challenging to find homes for teens, but by having the courage to raise their voices, these youth are shaping better futures for all Iowa teens who may someday need a foster home. Just recently I heard about a new foster family who planned on fostering younger children - until a presentation by Elevate youth tugged at their hearts and made them decide to open their home to teens too.

I don't think we could give you any better reasons to foster teens than what you'll hear when reading their own words. But, in case you need a few more here's a light-hearted list from Iowa KidsNet staff.

Ten Reasons to Foster Teens

1. No diapers to change.

2. They sleep through the night.

3. They will move out sooner. . . but can still visit!

4. You don't just get to foster a child - you get a friend.

5. They'll keep you up to date on the latest fashion trends.

6. No more carpools - they can drive you places!

7. No bottles, formula, or burp rags required.

8. They can help around the house.

9. They can learn from you, and you'll learn from them.

10. They'll teach you how to text message and even use Facebook.

How has a teen touched your life? Leave a little comment and let us know!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

You are the champions....

As you might know, this summer Iowa KidsNet named eight “Adoption Champions” across the state to help us get the word out about our free post-adoption support services.

These families can relate to the challenges adoptive parents face because they've been in those shoes - each one is an adoptive family. In short, they’ll be helping plan support networks in their area and spreading the word about the adoption support services available to families.

With their help, some amazing things are already happening! For example, in August, the Ames service area held a weekend retreat for families with DHS subsidized adoptions. We had a great turnout – over 100 adults and kids from central Iowa.

Adoptive parents got to meet and discuss some of the common struggles they share and learn new tips through training. For the kids, we had a character counts program with Silly Sally, a challenge course and a special program by Elevate. Lots of new friendships were made!

Our goal with post-adoption support is to help you keep your family safe and stable. If you have a DHS subsidized adoption, you're eligible for free support services. A support specialist will work with your family to develop a support plan just for you, and he or she will be available to help you with any needs. That could mean anything from being a listening ear for you, or assisting during a crisis. If you want to find out more, call 1.800.243.0756.

Enjoy this rainy day, and thanks for caring!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A coffee break with Kelly

Today I'm excited to present our first in a regular "coffee break" feature we'll be having from time to time where we chat with different folks involved in foster care and adoption in Iowa.

To kick it off, today we have a coffee break with Kelly Scheidler. Kelly is a foster and adoptive parent in the lovely southeast part of Iowa and has graciously agreed to be my guinea pig.
Thanks Kelly! :)

To start, tell us a little bit about your family.
We have eight kids right now, ages 10 months to 17. Two are biological, three are adopted and three are in foster care.

What's the most bizarre question you've ever gotten about foster care?
To me, the most bizzare question is "Why would you want to take in someone else's problem children?" I think that's insane when people ask that because children are in foster care not because they have done something wrong, but because of their parents' decisions.

Any favorite foster care stories?

It's really great to be thanked by a birth family for helping take care of their kids or helping them get them back. We never planned on adopting - we were just going to do foster care - but we actually had a birth mother come to us and ask us if we would reconsider that. She was willing to voluntarily relinquish her rights if we would adopt her kids. And it's a good feeling to be thanked by the teenagers we've helped. We have teens who have left our home, but still contact us to let us know how they're doing and thank us.

Do you have a foster parent superpower?
The ability to organize 10 people's schedules. I've never missed an appointment.

Seriously, never? That's impressive.

No. I have everything logged into one place. I had a paper planner once that we lost for three days, and now so I don't have a heart attack I keep everything in a Wal-Mart palm pilot and back it up faithfully.

That's a good tip. Got any other words of wisdom for those just starting foster care or thinking about it?
Expect the unexpected. Be ready to take it day by day because you don't know what's going to be thrown at you. Go with the flow.

If you liked this "coffee break," leave a little comment and let us know!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two big updates and a tip

Hi! In the last couple of weeks we’ve added some important updates to our web site – this info is especially important if you’re a current foster or adoptive family.

What you need to know –

1. New DHS rules. As you might already know, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) has adopted new rule changes that will affect current foster and adoptive families. These changes will go into effect on October 1, 2009. These changes include new rules for licensing, safety and training requirements.

It’s important you take some time to read through the changes here.

It’s a lot of information to digest, so I would encourage you to have a conversation with your Iowa KidsNet support specialist or IFAPA peer liaison even if you don't have questions. He or she can walk through the changes with you and talk about which ones might affect your family and how you can prepare for or address those. These rules are also sometimes up to interpretation, so it would be beneficial to talk through the changes with someone that is familiar with them.

Foster parents, we know how much time you invest not only in the kids, but also in continuing to meet necessary state requirements like these. We try to say it a lot, but we can never say it enough – please know how much we appreciate your dedication to fostering and to the kids!

2. Court hearings for youth in foster care. This is really good news! DHS has been pilot testing a new automated process for notifying foster parents about court hearings for the youth in their care. Right now it’s being tested in two counties, and if all goes according to plan, it could be in place statewide by November. Read more here.

3. Tips on support roles. Iowa has a lot of support in place for its families. While that’s a wonderful thing, we know it can also be confusing sometimes to know who does what. DHS and a group of service providers created a tip chart that will hopefully give you a better idea of all the support available and how each person or agency can help you. Check it out here.

Whew! Lots of info. Thanks for taking the time to check it out, and again, please don't hesitate to talk to your support specialist with any questions.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Potential for greatness

Hi, and welcome!

When we were thinking about what to name our new Iowa KidsNet blog, one of the names that came to mind was potential for greatness. Maybe you've seen this phrase on our posters or web site - it's been one of our slogans for recruiting Iowa foster and adoptive parents.

The foster care system is complex, but at the heart of it all it's about one thing - looking out for the best interests of kids. We believe that with the right kind of love and support (from people like you!) that kids can reach their potential for greatness, even if they've had a really tough start in life. So, hopefully the name of this blog reflects that - the potential that Iowa's children have, and the potential we all have to do something that makes a difference for children in foster care.

We'll be sharing news, resources, stories, etc, about once a week. If you were a reader of our post-adoption support blog, thank you! And if you missed it, you can still go back and check it out here. There's some great resources and articles from our support specialists, and we'll continue sharing those kinds of tips here in the future.

And to close, I'll introduce myself. My name is Stacey, and I'll be your sort-of-host in this space. I've been with Iowa KidsNet since 2007. One of my favorite parts of working in this field is constantly being inspired - we have some amazing foster parents with some very, very big hearts. :)

Thanks for reading and for your heart for Iowa kids!