Friday, October 29, 2010

When life is Not.So.TV.

About 29,000 youth age out of foster care every year without the support they need to succeed. Janessa, a foster care alum and social work student at the University of Northern Iowa, graciously agreed to share how support made a difference for her. She's now very involved in giving back to youth in care, and we hope to hear more from her in the future! Here's Janessa's story:

Entering foster care

At 21, I recognize that life is like a card game in a sense. It’s not always about winning or losing, but instead how you deal the cards that you are dealt. I could spend all my time searching for answers and asking questions as like, “Why me?” If this were the case I would not be who I am, or where I am today.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.”

I entered the Iowa foster care system just one month after I turned 14. I was in the 8th grade. My mom at the time was dealing with issues of her own that were getting in the way of her ability to parent, so the State saw fit that my two sisters and me be removed from the home. Immediately we were split up. I went to a youth shelter and my sisters went to live with my grandparents. This was a huge challenge for me. I had already been taken from the only thing I knew (home) and now I was being separated from the only two people who I’d had naturally bonded with my whole life.

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt to you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.” Jawaharal Nehru

At a young age I decided that no matter what I was going through I would persevere. My only option was to move forward. I pledged to keep my head on straight regardless of what my peers had to say, what my family had to say, and regardless of what statistics claimed my future would be. My reality at the time did not have to determine my destiny.

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that this was easy. I’m not superwoman, and I never will be! I’ve experienced feelings of rejection, loneliness, and even depression as many other foster kids can attest to. There were many nights that I didn’t believe I would make it through.

Reason to believe

Today, I am a college student, actively involved on a foster care youth board called Elevate, and a young advocate for youth in the foster care system. Looking back on my foster care experience I have many people to credit to my successes. Without the help of several supportive adults there is no way I would be where I am today. Having people like my social worker, GAL (Guardian At Litem), CASA worker, and TLP worker recognize my goals, talents, and encourage me through education and personal development gave me reason to believe in myself.

To learn more about how to become involved in the life of a current or former foster youth, visit Foster Club or contact your local Department of Human Services.

“…The recognition and support of those around you is nurturing.” -Rosemarie Rossetti


Janessa is helping raise awareness about the real life challenges of young people today through a documentary series called Not.So.TV. Check out her promo video below!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Princesses and Pirates

One great thing about adopting in the state of Iowa is that if you have a subsidized foster care adoption, you’ll automatically qualify for free post-adoption support services from Iowa KidsNet.

These services can help families with all kind of issues, such as a behavioral problem or crisis, navigating a school or birth family issue and more. If you’re a subsidized adoptive family and are interested in these services, please call us at 1.800.243.0756. You’ll be assigned your own support specialist who will create a plan specifically for your family.

To say thank you to adoptive families this November, we’ll be hosting a special adoption respite event in Des Moines called “Princesses and Pirates” on Nov. 7. Adoptive parents (those with a subsidized foster care adoption) will be able to spend an afternoon shopping or relaxing in Des Moines while we host fun activities, treats, crafts and a magic show for their kids at the Des Moines Botanical Center!

Why Princesses and Pirates? For one thing, it’ll keep the Halloween costume fun going into November. And because every child deserves the opportunity to simply be a kid – having fun and imagining they can be anything they want to be. That’s what great foster and adoptive families allow them to do every day!

If you’re an adoptive family in our Navigator program, look for details coming your way soon.

Who is your favorite pirate or princess character in a book or movie? Let us know!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Events coming up in November!

We are in full swing planning for November's National Adoption Month! There are over 114,000 children in U.S. foster care who are waiting to be adopted. Some children may wait five years or more, which is a lifetime to a child. We hope you'll save the date for one of the exciting events happening in Iowa to help raise awareness:

  • Nov. 6 - Statewide balloon launch (locations TBA)
  • Nov. 6 - Kids Expo in Dubuque
  • Nov. 7 - Princesses and Pirates in Des Moines (A fun respite event for adoptive families. Details TBA)
  • Nov. 13-14 - Adoption Retreat at Camp Ewalu in Strawberry Point
  • Nov. 19 - Cedar Rapids Adoption Friday
  • Nov. 20 - National Adoption Day!
  • Nov. 20 - Des Moines Adoption Saturday
  • Nov. 20 - Sioux City Adoption Saturday
  • Nov. 20 - Webster City Adoption Saturday
  • Nov. 20 - Council Bluffs Adoption Saturday
  • Nov. 20 - Davenport Adoption Fair
You can keep up with event details at our website. Even if you can't attend an event, there are many things during National Adoption Month that you can do to help! Learn the facts about foster care adoption, ask your faith community to participate in an event such as Orphan Sunday, or learn how you can support youth aging out of foster care through Elevate or Foster Club. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Foster a Smile.

Here's something that put a smile on our faces this week.  Foster A Smile is a network of professional photographers who volunteer their time to take free senior photos for teens in foster care. It's an awesome cause that makes sure Iowa high school seniors in foster care get the great photos they deserve.

Sarah Moore of Boone, Iowa, started this statewide network. Here's what she has to say on their website about why it's so important:

"Through my personal volunteer work, I've learned that only 50% of foster youth in Iowa graduate from high school. Nationally, only 20% attend college and of these, only 3% will graduate, even though 70% of foster youth want to go to college. The point is, that it's a big deal for a foster youth to graduate from high school...and they rarely get senior pictures. In the grand scheme of things, senior pictures may not be all that important―but it's a lifetime keepsake of a huge accomplishment for these youth."

We hope you'll check out their website, and help spread the word!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Up, up, and away! Join us for a balloon launch.

- Ames Adoption Saturday '09 -

Interested in a fun way to help celebrate National Adoption Month?

We're planning a statewide balloon launch on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. at locations across Iowa - with the goal of raising awareness about children in foster care and those waiting to be be adopted!

Each site will release 40 biodegradeable balloons, representing 100 children per balloon.

But, we can't do it without you! We're looking for volunteers to either help coordinate a site in their area or simply be present to celebrate with us during the balloon release. This is a kid-friendly event, so bring the whole family!

To sign up or get more details, please contact the local Iowa KidsNet recruiter in your area. Click here.

Hope to see you there on Nov. 6! We'll post a full list of all the locations as we line up the sites during October.