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!