Foster parents will tell you that fostering children is challenging, exhausting, and yet a joy and a gift. At any given time, 10,000 children in Iowa are depending on foster parents to keep them safe, nurtured and assured that they are loved during a traumatic time in their lives. Reunification of children with their birth parents is the goal, but that is not always possible.
All of us, the faithful in the Diocese of Davenport and beyond, as advocates for life have a responsibility toward the wellbeing of these children and families. We may not be called to be foster parents, but we are called to support them in their vocation and the children they foster.
Some 424,000 children are in foster care nationwide, said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime advocate for foster children (https://tinyurl.com/2y5nueh7). About 10,000 children are in foster care in Iowa, according to Families Helping Families of Iowa. Grassley’s goal, a goal all of us should work to achieve, is equipping families at risk of entering the child welfare system with the resources they need.
Grassley co-introduced a bipartisan bill that became law last year, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). The law established federal support for states to transform child welfare systems and keep more children safely at home, instead of placing them in foster care (https://tinyurl.com/zz56wdr9). It builds on previous bipartisan legislation to support new state programs that help safely keep families together and provided some funding and insurance to help state-level programs continue while new services established by the earlier law are phased in, said Taylor Foy, Grassley’s communications director.
In an Op-Ed piece in the Quad-City Times (May 24), Grassley acknowledged that in some cases parental rights are terminated too quickly and in other cases, not soon enough, to the detriment of the child’s wellbeing. Laws and policies need to reflect the complex and unique situations of children in foster care. Engaging and listening to the experiences of older children in foster care is an important element of drafting effective, compassionate laws and legislation.
“While investments in prevention services will surely help many families avoid separation, the reality is that some children are better served by being placed temporarily into foster care, or adopted,” Grassley wrote. Richelle Pipho-Holle and husband Jim Holle of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa and Theresa and Daniel Smith of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport are among the foster and adoptive parents who have provided a safe, loving home for children in need in our diocese. It is a vocation requiring patience, energy, empathy and unconditional love. The gift lies in building relationships and in responding to God’s call.
“We are all called to assist in some way,” said Theresa Smith who, with her husband Daniel, is transitioning from foster parenting to a supportive role because of their growing family. For some, that calling to support may be prayer. For others, it may be offering to mow a foster family’s lawn or offering a ride to appointments and activities. Others may be called to babysit or to accompany a foster or adoptive parent to a court appointment. Some may be called to legislative advocacy.
The Iowa Catholic Conference website (iowacatholicconference.org) is a great place to keep posted on state legislation and policies pertaining to the wellbeing of families. The ICC, for example, reported May 21 that within the human services budget bill (HF 891), the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency program received a $1 million increase to $4.3 million. The home-based program connects families to resources such as housing, food and energy assistance, transportation, counseling and parent education — services that families at risk of entering the child welfare system need. We can support these efforts by contacting our legislators (www.legis.iowa.gov) and monitoring reports on the Iowa Department of Human Services website (dhs.iowa.gov/reports/child-welfare-data-and-report).
Educating ourselves about the issues surrounding foster care helps all of us to become better advocates for our state’s children and to demonstrate our respect for life. Learn more about this issue by visiting the Four Oaks Foster & Adoptive Family Connections (iowafosterandadoption.org/) and the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association (ifapa.org).
How is God calling each of us to support foster families and the children entrusted to their care?
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor