Day 8 of 21
Foster care and the child welfare system are complicated. For the children, youth, and families who are part of the system — through choice or circumstance — it can be especially bewildering and intimidating.
Kids and youth don’t enter the child welfare system as a result of bad behavior, but because their original home is unsafe for them at the time. The problem could be caused by neglect, abuse, death, or their parents’ inability to care for them.
These children are normal kids in scary situations, and they are often too young to understand what’s happening to them.
Foster care is temporary care provided by the state for children and youth who currently cannot live with their parents or caregivers. The term “foster care” includes living with relatives, traditional foster parents, group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living situations. The goal of foster care is always to reunite children and youth with their families if and when it is safe to do so.
The child welfare system is a combination of public and private organizations dedicated to keeping children safe and strengthening families. Child welfare services may involve the entire family or just the children. They can include in-home services, foster care, mental health care, substance use treatment, parenting classes, domestic violence services, and much more.
Our state’s foster care system includes a disproportionate number of children of color. The chart below shows the number of children in the Iowa foster care system in 2019, compared to the total population of all Iowa children that same year.
These racial disparities are important to keep in mind as you explore today’s activities. Pay attention to whether your thoughts about foster care change once you better understand who is a part of the system and why.
- Recognize the variety of reasons that children and youth enter the foster system.
- Understand some of the challenges currently facing foster youth and foster parents in Iowa.
- Learn about the struggles that foster youth face when they “age out” of the system — and what community resources are available to help.
Choose one or more of these daily activities to learn about today’s topic. Plan to set aside 15 to 30 minutes to complete the activities and journal about your thoughts and feelings.
Read “Many Say Now is the Time to Fight Racial Bias in Foster Care” (5 min) from AP News, which highlights how Bethany Christian Services — one of the largest Christian adoption agencies in the U.S. — is pushing for reform in the foster care system in light of racial disparities made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch “Taken Into Foster Care, Through the Eyes of a Child” (5:01) from the Kansas City Star to hear Michelle Voorhees, an inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility, talk about her experience in foster care and her ideas for improving the system.
Watch “Aging Out of the Foster Care System” (5:31), a “Good Morning America” segment about the experiences of foster youth who turned 18 and lost their support systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Listen to “Meeting Your Children/The Decision” (12:20) from the Foster Adoption Podcast to hear Adam share the story of how he and his husband met the foster children they would eventually adopt.
Capture what you learned by writing down your thoughts and feelings about today's content.
- What was your “aha moment” (moment of surprise or new information)?
- Does this information change your perspective?
- How will you use what you learned today to create more equitable spaces?
- Do you have experience with the foster care system (as a foster child, parent, family member, friend, etc.)? If so, how did your experience differ from the stories you heard today?
Additional Resources & Activities
If you would like to dig deeper into this issue, check out these additional resources. We encourage you to revisit this material when you have more time. Feel free to come back to this topic as often as you’d like!
- Explore information from Four Oaks about how to become a foster parent to learn more about the process of fostering.
- Listen to “What a CASA Does” (3:07) from the DIA Child Advocacy Board to learn how you can make an impact on kids in the foster care system without becoming a foster parent.
- Check out the book “To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care” (336 pages) by Cris Beam to read true stories about the triumphs and struggles of those involved with the foster care system.
- Read “Helping Iowa Children Find Hope” (3 min) from Lutheran Services in Iowa to hear an Iowa family share their experience with fostering children and teens, which they view as a privilege.
- Read “Foster Care Explained: What It Is, How It Works and How It Can Be Improved” (10 min) from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for basic information about foster care and answers to frequently asked questions.
- Explore the Iowa Foster Child and Youth Bill of Rights and Parents Rights and Responsibilities through infographics from the Iowa Department of Human Services.
- Watch the TED Talk “To Transform Child Welfare, Take Race Out of the Equation” (7:32) by social worker Jessica Pryce to hear her solution for better assessments when deciding whether to remove kids from their homes.
- Listen to “A Talk with Sesame Street about the New Foster Care Muppet” (1:02:04) from Creating a Family about the reasons for creating a muppet in foster care, how they decided on the storyline, and the program Sesame Street in Communities.
Share your reflections on today’s topic on social media using the hashtag #IowaEquityChallenge.
Next Topic: Child Care