Monday, April 25, 2011

What would be your reason for doing foster care?

Brandy's "I Did It" reason
National Foster Care Month starts next week! We've got lots of stuff planned, including a May 9 proclamation signing with Iowa's Governor, and we're also looking forward to sharing with you video interviews with Iowa resource families and teens during May. Here's some more events and resources if you're interested.

A few weeks ago we put out a call to Iowa's foster families to share with us their "I Did It" reasons - or in other words, the reason why they chose to step into the important role of resource family. We'll be sharing these again during May in hopes that other Iowans would also consider becoming a foster or adoptive family.

Here's a few of the ones we heard from Iowa families:
  • "We did it because we can!"
  • "Because every person is a child of God."
  • We did it because we couldn't have kids of our own but can't wait to parent!"
  • "I did it because I enjoy kids and hope I can make a difference in someone's life."
  • "Because the need is there, and it's very important to us."
  • "Because we want to share our love."
  • "Because we believe every child deserves to be in a safe, nurturing environment."
  • "I just want to give back to tomorrow's leaders."
If you're a foster parent, why did you choose to become one? Or, why do you feel it's important to support youth in foster care? We'd love to hear.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Coffee break with Becky

Today it's time to meet another support and licensing specialist - Becky from our Western side of the state! Becky graciously shared a few insights about what she loves about working in the child welfare field, as well as some things you might consider if you're interested in making an impact as a resource family.

Photo via Flickr - Phil Monger
Hi Becky! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role with Iowa families?

I've worked in many areas in the social service field, including waiver homes, after school programs, in-home services, a domestic violence shelter, and my favorite - working with children in foster care and foster parents. I am a foster and adoptive home licensing and support specialist, covering families in about nine counties in Western Iowa.

I aid families in renewing their license, help them find training opportunities, support them through difficult situation with a placement or personal matter and am their sounding board for questions and concerns.

What do you enjoy about this role?

I enjoy seeing children in foster homes succeed in all aspects of their life. I love to see the difference that foster homes give children through consistency and making children feel a part of their immediate family, as well as the connections foster families have with biological families and their willingness to maintain that connection and bond.

The joy on a foster parent's face when they have assisted in successfully reuniting children with their biological families is priceless. I also enjoy hearing foster parents talk about the progress children in their home have made and the positive feeling this gives the foster families who work so hard.

As a support specialist, what's one essential tip or resource you often recommend to families?

One essential tip is to use the resources surrounding you, whether this includes therapy services, in-home services, support groups, other foster families or respite care. I like to point out to foster families that everyone deserves a break and using respite gives themselves as well as the children they care for a break.

Name three qualities that help a foster family be successful.

Patience, consistency and being willing to try new techniques and skills in parenting.

Can you share a favorite story from your years in the field?

I've seen many families grow through adoption, long term foster care or just by being a support to biological families even after reunification. Many parents meet lifelong friends and maintain relationships with past placements throughout their adult life.  

Any words of advice for those considering becoming foster parents?

Foster parenting is very rewarding. There are a lot of support systems available, and it's essential you use all those resources. It's important to understand your own family dynamics and make decisions that your entire family can handle and fit your strengths.

Thanks Becky! Iowa is lucky to have a strong support network for foster and adoptive families. What kind of support is most helpful in your life, whether as a foster/adoptive parent or just in dealing with everyday ups and downs?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good books for May (or any day!)

As we gear up for May's National Foster Care Month, several of our resource family recruiters are encouraging local libraries to display books about foster care or adoption from foster care during May. (See some good resources for libraries here.)

If you are a bookworm, this would be a great way to get involved in Foster Care Month awareness efforts in your local community! We'd suggest getting in touch with the resource family recruiter near you to see if they're already planning something at your local library. If not, they would probably love your help!

You could also suggest your library do a story time with a foster care related book, highlight movies with foster care related themes or even display books or movies about famous former foster youth.

A new book you could suggest to your local library is Michael Oher's new memoir: I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond. The real life inspiration behind the film The Blind Side, Oher wrote the book partly in response to thousands of letters he received from youth in foster care.

Here's a clip of Oher sharing a little about why he wrote it:

We'd love to hear what books or films you'd suggest on the subject of foster care or adoption? Any favorites? You can see others' thoughts over on our Facebook page.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring forward with post-adoption support

As spring approaches, it’s a great time to pause and take a fresh look at all the resources available to your family. We'd like to remind all subsidized adoptive families to consider taking advantage of free post-adoption support.
Here's the highlights: 

All Iowa families with a DHS-subsidized adoption are eligible for free support through Iowa KidsNet's Navigator program. Your family is eligible for post-adoption support services for children age 18 and under, no matter how long a child has been a part of your family.

If you have adopted through DHS and receive Title 19 insurance as part of the adoption agreement or have a future needs statement as part of the adoption agreement, you are also eligible.

The goal of post-adoption support is to keep both your child and family stable by developing a support plan that meets the unique needs and circumstances of your family. For example, your support specialist can:
  • Visit your family at your home
  • Provide behavior management plans and assistance
  • Respond to crisis calls from your family
  • Assist and support your family’s relationship with a birth family or kin
  • Advocate with schools, DHS and service providers for a child’s treatment or needs
  • Coordinate with licensing workers or providers connected to your family
  • Connect you to community resources
  • Connect you to a local adoption support group 

Post-adoption support
is flexible! Even if you don’t feel as though your family currently needs additional support, you may want to meet your support specialist and learn more. Then, if you ever do need more support, you already have the resources in place. 

Want to know more? Please give us a call at 1.800.243.0756. 

Are you a foster or adoptive family? What kind of support resources have been most helpful to you?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fist Pump Friday

Happy Friday! 

As we close out the week, here's a few things that got us talking this week. They definitely deserve a fist pump!

Community graduation party for teens. Will you be attending a graduation open house this spring for friends or family? What if there was a whole group of students who graduated and never had a party or acknowledgment of their achievement? A  group of folks in Cedar Valley is making sure all foster youth in their area get to celebrate! You're invited to come encourage youth earning their diplomas and G.E.Ds. See more.

Great foster parent stories. To be a successful foster parent, you need patience, flexibility and a willingness to be part of a team (among other things!). I heard a powerful story this week about all three, as a family who initially became licensed intending to adopt later changed their perceptions about how how their family could help others. They've since become involved in foster parenting and helping birth families. In a twist, they may end up adopting after all, as one of their youth may need an adoptive home. It's great to see families discover new strengths.

Waiting child stories. It is always a good moment when we receive a request to remove a child from the Iowa KidsNet photolistings. This means potential adoptive homes or a permanent connection to a supportive, caring adult has been identified. Meet other Iowa children still waiting for this permanent support.

Iowa Aftercare Services Network. In all 99 counties, Iowa youth aging out of foster care can connect with the Iowa Aftercare Services Network to be assigned a self-sufficiency advocate and learn more about available support as they transition to young adulthood. See this week's news story highlighting this important resource!

What in your life deserves a fist pump this week?