IA Navigates Foster-Care Challenges
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Iowa's child welfare system is feeling the weight of the pandemic, with some counties in urgent need of foster-care families. At the same time, those involved with referrals say the state remains focused on reducing the cycle of trauma for the children.
Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) said regions surrounding cities such as Council Bluffs and Sioux City have the biggest gaps in foster-care placement.
Danette Morgan, pre-service training coordinator for LSI, said last year, more than 520 western Iowa children needed a foster home. She noted the pandemic has created roadblocks in families taking on more referrals. Another dilemma is the closure of some emergency shelters, which added to the uncertainty.
"Every time we move, I think it raises the questions again of, 'How long am I going to be here? What's going to happen next?' " Morgan explained. "And I think it sets the child back, maybe, as far as healing and developmentally."
While Lutheran Services calls on more households to become foster-care families, it said Iowa recognizes the importance of kinship care. Through a federal law passed in 2018, states have financial flexibility to carry out services aiming to keep at-risk children with relatives.
And there are prevention efforts to avoid removing children from their homes. Iowa's kinship care program started last year.
Morgan pointed out the program is a big help because of the extra hoops relatives or trusted family friends have to go through to become foster parents to a loved one. They are given temporary financial support while navigating the process.
"It is a long process, and it does take time," Morgan observed. "If finances were a concern to the family going through this program, then it makes it a little bit easier for them, and at the same time [it] provides a home for the child."
Meanwhile, LSI noted of the 520 children needing placement last year, roughly half the cases involved siblings. Morgan added limited availability makes it hard to keep them connected, and her team is doing its best to find homes close together.
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