Release provided to Iowa KidsNet
Foster family respite care program seeks volunteers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2013
WAVERLY, Iowa - A program pioneered by the Wartburg College Social Work department and the Allison Area Foster Parent Association will expand certified respite care to more foster families in Northeast Iowa.
Thanks to successful lobbying by Wartburg students and foster parents during last years Iowa legislative session, the Certified Respite Provider program was included in the states main health and human services bill, resulting in a $25,000 contract with the Department of Human Services to expand the program from Bremer, Butler, Franklin, and Grundy counties to include Howard, Allamakee, Winneshiek, Clayton, Chickasaw and Fayette counties.
"Eventually, we're hoping it will go statewide," said Nancy Magnall of Waverly, resource information specialist with the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association.
Prior to establishment of this Respite Provider program four years ago, foster parents had to leave their children in another foster home if they wanted to get away for a weekend or a vacation. Now, families in the four counties can request a trained Respite Provider who will come to their home.
Magnall and Dr. Tammy Faux of the Wartburg Social Work department were involved in designing the pilot program, which got up and running in 2010 with a $5,000 grant from AdoptUSKids..
"We think it's really exciting that this program is expanding and were at the epicenter, Faux said. "Although our funding is for one year, were hopeful that the legislature will re-appropriate monies every year for the next five years."
The bill stipulates that the program will utilize college students, an integral factor in the pilot programs success.
"It's not just DHS running a program. It's made possible by Wartburg's willingness to partner in the effort," said Faux.
Wartburg social work students get unique hands-on experience through the Respite Care program. Students complete program assessments and conduct background studies on provider applicants. Social work students also advocate for legislation and partner with the foster parents association to shape foster care policy in Iowa.
Faux reviews the reports completed by students, and then documents then go to the DHS office in Waterloo and finally to the DHS Central Office in Des Moines for approval.
"These are ways our students can really make an impact in the communityand be prepared for jobs," Faux said. "We get great job placements because our students gain professional writing and interviewing experience through this program."
Student-conducted research for the pilot project indicated that although foster families are allowed to have 24 days of respite care per year, no one had taken more than six days of respite because program rules required parents to move the foster child to another approved home.
"Imagine working in a high-stress, 24-hour-a-day job and never taking any time off," Magnall said.
Under the direction of Magnall and Faux, the Certified Respite Care Provider pilot program developed a DHS-approved program to train volunteers who would care for children in their own foster homes.
"My husband and I love that someone comes into our own home to take care of our foster children," said one mother. "Our children have had so much taken from them. It is comforting and safer for them to be taken care of in the only place they feel is their home."
"During our first two years, we trained 14 Wartburg students, four University of Northern Iowa students, one University of Iowa student, and one Kirkwood Community College student," Magnall said. In addition to college students, six community residents, three former foster parents and six adult children of current foster families completed Respite Provider training.
Faux said she is pleased that Luther College, her alma mater, will join the Certified Respite Providers program this year, giving Luther social work students the same hands-on experiences.
Additional volunteers are needed as the program continues in the four original counties and expands to six additional counties. Providers must must be at least 20 years old, fill out an application, and be able to make a one-year commitment to the program. Two days of mandatory training for the providers will be held at Luther College in Decorah on February 4 and February 23.
Persons interested in the program should contact Magnall at 877-467-4100 or 319-352-3600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.