May is National Foster Care Month, a time to rethink what it means to make a difference in kids' lives in one of the most challenging and rewarding ways: providing homes to the more than 6,000 teens and children currently in Iowa's foster care system.
Thanks to the many Iowans who already serve as foster parents, as caregivers and in other supporting roles, each year many children and teens are safely reunited with their parents, cared for by relatives or adopted into loving families.
"National Foster Care Month is a time to salute the compassionate families and individuals who make a difference for Iowa kids as foster parents, relative caregivers, social workers, mentors, advocates and volunteers," said Theresa Lewis, project director for Iowa KidsNet.
It is also a time to raise awareness of the many children who still need foster families and reach out to more Iowans who can provide good homes.
"What many people don't realize is that there is no one model of a foster family. Adults can be single or married, homeowners or renters, already have children or not. If you are in a position to provide a nurturing, safe and stable home for a teen or child, you can be a foster parent," Lewis says.
More foster homes are especially needed for teenagers, sibling groups and children with special needs or behaviors, many of whom have experienced abuse or neglect. There is also a need for more African American, Latino and Native American families to become foster or adoptive parents.
"Entering foster care is hard on all kids, but keeping children connected to their families, friends and community when they enter foster care can ease the transition and minimize trauma," Lewis said. "By helping kids stay with siblings and keep ties to their culture, foster care plays an important role in helping entire families move toward wholeness."
In all Iowa counties, Iowa KidsNet provides a structured network of support for foster families and post-adoption support for families who have adopted from foster care and have a subsidized adoption.
Iowa KidsNet is the single statewide contact for those interested in becoming foster or foster adoptive parents. For more information, visit www.iowakidsnet.com or call 800-243-0756.