Thursday, April 29, 2010

Am I too old to be a foster parent? Debunking myths of foster care

I was chatting with a foster parent yesterday, a wonderful woman, who shared her story of how she became a foster parent 18 years ago.

Back then, she had called her local agency to ask if a single woman could become a foster parent, not sure if that was allowed. The agency was happy to inform her she could, and ever since she's been fostering Iowa youth, from teen mothers to infants to kids with special needs.

As we head into May's National Foster Care Month, it's a great time to share a few other myths about foster care.

1. Myth. You have to be married and a homeowner to be a foster parent. Fact. Foster parents come from all walks of life. Some are single, some are renters, some have kids and others don't. And foster parents come from all racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations.

2. Myth. Kids are in foster care because they've done something wrong. Fact. Not true. Kids enter foster care because their biological family is currently unable to provide a safe or nurturing home. The ultimate goal of foster care is for kids to be able to return safely home to their biological families if possible.

3. Myth. Foster families are superheroes. Fact. While we do think our foster families are pretty awesome and extraordinary, the truth is they're ordinary families. And they'll be the first to tell you that! Foster parents are everyday, down-to-earth people who for many different reasons chose to step up for a child who needed a home. So, if you've been thinking you don't have what it takes, you might be surprised!

4. Myth. I'm too old to be a foster parent. Fact. You have to be 21 years old to be a foster parent in Iowa, and after that your age is only a consideration if it affects your ability to care for a specific child. In fact, I heard a nice story yesterday about a 68-year-old woman who is fostering several teenage boys. Older foster parents can be great - often, they have previous parenting experience or can share a wealth of wisdom and life experiences with youth.

5. Myth. Once I become a foster parent, I'm on my own. Fact. As child welfare has evolved, so has support for families. In Iowa, foster parents now have a really good support network with every foster family being assigned their own support specialist. Check out more about support here.

What are some myths you've heard about foster care? Or things that have surprised you? We'd love to hear.

Monday, April 19, 2010

5 Things You'll Like About PS-MAPP

Before you become a foster parent in Iowa, you're required to take a 30-hour series of classes over 10 weeks called PS-MAPP. It stands for Partnering for Safety and Permanency - a Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting. Or in simpler words, a class to prepare you for foster or adoptive parenting.

30 hours, you say? That's a lot! It is a lot, but those 30 hours will prepare you to impact a child's life in a way that lasts forever. And I think that's a pretty good return on the investment of your time, don't you? :)

Here's 5 things you'll like about PS-MAPP.

1. You'll find out who the kids are. You'll learn about why children enter the foster care system and the reasons behind why they need a home, whether that's a temporary foster home or possibly a permanent home through adoption. You may even get to hear from local teens in foster care about their personal experience.

2. You'll learn why foster and adoptive parents are so special. You'll get a better understanding of what makes a foster parent or adoptive parent role so unique. For example, foster parents not only have the opportunity to change the life of a child, but they can have a profound impact on a child's parents as well by being a positive role model.

3. Class can actually be fun. We do hear from most participants that they have fun with the training. Part of that, our trainers say, is because the classes are team-taught in an interactive way with a social worker and experienced foster or adoptive parent as your leaders.

4. You'll get plenty of names for future babysitters. PS-MAPP helps you build a network of support. You'll be sharing your class experience with other individuals who probably have many of the same questions, concerns and hopes that you do. It's a great opportunity to build new friendships with other parents - parents who may someday be able to provide respite care for you as a fellow foster parent.

5. A chance to make an informed decision. PS-MAPP class is not only training for foster care, but an opportunity to give you all the information you need to decide if foster care or adoption is right for your family. No matter what you decide, it should be a worthwhile experience. You'll have learned a lot of valuable information about yourself and your family that will be useful no matter what you do going forward.

Here's what a few families have said about PS-MAPP class:

"It's eye-opening and helps prepare you."
"It will change your perception of fostering and adoption."
"The time is worth the knowledge gained."
"The information learned can be used in many life situations."
"It helps you build relationships with other parents."
"A must-do if you want to be an effective and positive foster parent."

Are you ready to be a foster parent? Take a self-assessment, and find out.

What do you think about PS-MAPP? How did it help prepare you for foster parenting? Or, what kinds of things would you want to learn about foster parenting in your classes?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why did you do foster care?

We are in full swing with preparations for May's National Foster Care Month and are excited about what'll be happening next month - from special showings of The Blind Side to a free spoken-word, jazz and rap entertainment event that will raise awareness about Iowa's need for more African American foster families. Keep checking our events page or Facebook for updates, and I'll include more info on the blog as it gets closer.

One endeavor we're very excited about is launching a new marketing campaign for recruiting foster families! Based on the theme "I did it because . . .", the campaign will share reasons why real families decided to do foster care and ask community members to consider what their reason for doing foster care would be. Here's a few of the powerful responses we've received so far, when posing this question to staff members and current families:

I did it for my grandchildren.
I did it for my people.
I did it because we weren't ready to be empty nesters.
I did it because I was one. I was in foster care for six years.
I did it because I am blessed.
I did it because their birth mom asked for help.

So, if you're a foster parent, why did you do do foster care? Or, if you're considering it, what would your reason be?