Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who would you call at 2:30 a.m.?

What comes to mind when you think of the word "support"?

A friend who listens to your bad day? The frustration of being on hold with tech support?

Lately, when I hear the word support I think about a 2:30 a.m. phone call.

2:30 a.m. is when Karen, an Iowa KidsNet support specialist, recently got a call from one of her foster families. The foster mom was having chest pains, and the dad wondered if Karen could stay with the young children in their home while he and his wife went to the emergency room.

Karen lived across town, but she made it to their house while the ambulance was still there.

“I would be there in the middle of the night for any of my families who needed me," she said when she told me this story.

Imagine the family's relief. Not having to worry about the kids, because a skilled professional was there. Because Karen had a trusted relationship with their family. Because she already knew each child in their home.

Fortunately, the parents were okay and back home by sunrise. We welcomed 63 new resource families in February, and one of the best things as they begin their journey of helping Iowa kids is that they don't have to do it alone.

Each of Iowa's resource families is assigned a support specialist to help meet their specific needs and even create a unique plan for their family. Obviously, not every family will have a middle-of-the-night-crisis, and your support specialist may not always be able to be on hand within minutes, like Karen was.

But knowing you have a go-to person you can always call, whether it's with a simple question or something more complex - that's what makes this kind of support so valuable.

Who's the "go-to-person" in your life? Your best friend? A sister? Your parents? Leave a comment, and let us know!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A coffee break with Alicia and Mike

I'm so excited this week to introduce you to one of our Iowa KidsNet ambassador families! This is a program Iowa KidsNet started last fall with some great foster and adoptive families across the state. They're helping us raise awareness about Iowa children in foster care and the need for more foster families by reaching out to their personal contacts of family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and their local community.

Alicia and Mike are an ambassador family in the Waterloo service area.

Hi ambassadors! So, tell us a little about your family.
We have a 20-year-old daughter, an 18-year-old son, an 11-year-old son and a 22-month-old son. We also have a 12-year-old foster daughter and an 18-year-old foster son.

Wow, you're a busy family! When did you become foster parents?
We have been foster parents for a little over two years now. We decided to become foster parents because we wanted to adopt. During our journey to become foster parents our perspective changed, and we decided to foster as well.

What is something that has surprised you about foster parenting?
First, we were surprised at just how much we love it. We were also surprised that at most times it is very easy to work together with birth families.

Name three qualities you think help make a good foster parent.

Empathy, a good sense of humor, and a true desire to make a difference in a child's life.

Any interesting or funny stories to share?
We had a 4-year-old girl in our care for about eight months. She had been with us for roughly six months at the time, and I was sitting at the computer doing some work and she was in the same room playing with her dolly. I would catch pieces of the conversation she was having with her doll, and at one point I had to stop working and smile as I heard her tell her dolly that it was time for her to get ready to go on a visit to see her "birth mommy."

We're super excited to have started our Ambassador program. What have you been up to as an ambassador family?
We participated in Charles City's Spook Walk in 2009. When the Charles City Public Library hosted the Heart Gallery, Alicia read a book about adoption to two different groups of children for story time. During the Charles Theater's showing of The Blind Side, we handed out, pens, magnets, brochures, and business cards as well as answered questions both before and after the movie.

We spoke with restaurant owners who have then put out table tents. We have talked with our local radio station who has since run public service announcements for Iowa KidsNet. We have also talked to a countless number of people, put up many posters, put out a large number of brochures, and handed out hundreds of pens.

That is awesome. Thanks for helping spread the word! Anything else you want to add?
We would just like to say that becoming foster and foster adoptive parents is one of the best things that we have ever done. It has made our marriage stronger because we have to work as a team. We are stronger as parents because of the different backgrounds we encounter. We have stronger children because they have learned patience and empathy. And we have a stronger family because we appreciate what we have even more.

Being an ambassador family has allowed us to meet some wonderful people and make new friends. We are now much more involved in our community than we were before. Most importantly we are involved in something that we are very passionate about. Children have the power to become anything they want to become if only given the chance. Maybe you or I will be the one who gives them that opportunity.

Thanks to Alicia and Mike for sharing a little glimpse into their lives as foster parents!

We hope to introduce you to more of our ambassador families across the state.

Alicia and Mike had a great point about how foster care has benefited their own family, as well as the kids they care for. If you're a foster parent, how do you think the experience has made you a stronger parent/spouse/family?