Friday, July 2, 2010

A coffee break with Dawn

Today we're lucky to have Dawn join us for a "coffee break." Dawn is an Iowa KidsNet licensing supervisor and service coordinator in Western Iowa. If you're a foster parent in that neck of the woods, you might know her - she's been working with foster parents for the past 24 years!

Thanks Dawn for taking some questions! As a licensing supervisor, give us one essential tip for families who are in the process of completing their home studies.

It is essential to know the needs of your family and how that will fit with a foster or adoptive child's needs. Take what you learn during PS-MAPP training and use it to understand what a foster child will be experiencing. Consider your own experiences and family needs, and see what you need to do before you start taking placements so that you are well prepared. Then, talk with the family and licensing worker about this openly and honestly.

What's the most commonly asked licensing question you hear from families?

It seems like every family wants to know "how long will it take before a child is placed in my home?" I remind them that we're looking for families to meet an individual child's needs, and we can't predict what those needs will be. The kids we have coming into foster care are often sibling groups, teenagers and children with special needs. If you are able to care for those children, you may have a much shorter wait.

Name three qualities that help make a good foster parent.

Patience, sense of humor, and ability to work with others in a flexible manner.

Sense of humor is a must! After so many years in the field, you must have great stories. Can you share one of your favorites?

I've always enjoyed supporting and working with those families who foster teenagers. The story that holds the most meaning for me involved a meeting with a 17-year-old boy, his foster parents and his father. This boy, like many teens, desperately wanted to be on his own. He had many challenges when he first entered foster care, but by now he was a better student and didn't need any special assistance. The father encouraged his son to stay in foster care and finish high school, saying that he felt remaining in foster care would be like an "insurance policy" that his son would graduate.

That young man did graduate. Today he's a hardworking adult and father, and he's successful primarily because of the encouragement he got and still gets from his foster parents. I see this story over and over for teens that get the right attention and care in foster care. I love the commitment that our foster parents have for their foster children!

Last question. What's your advice to someone considering becoming a foster parent?

Be honest about why you're considering it. It really does have to be about meeting a child's needs and not your own needs. Go into the process with an open mind and recognize that nothing worthwhile is easy. Being a foster parent is truly worthwhile!

Thanks to Dawn for sharing some insights and stories with us. Hope everyone has a safe and spectacular Fourth of July weekend!


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