GRIMES, Iowa – A huge need exists for foster families across the state and a Grimes family says the experience of opening their home has been fulfilling. May is National Foster Care Month.
From breakfast to after school, things can get a little crazy at the McDermott home. Daughter Meredith McDermott said, "We're always going in different directions with sports and school."
Mom Keri said, "There's just things you have to get done before they all walk out the door, and you just kind of know what they are."
The McDermotts have four kids. A year ago, they added another. "It's a bit chaotic. We have five kids ages 7 to 15 to get to three different school buildings,” said John McDermott.
John and Keri McDermott became licensed foster parents in October. Son Anthony, 7, said, "It means when somebody doesn't have a home because of something and then you take them in."
"There's such a need. There are so many kiddos that need a place to be, usually it's a temporary place to be,” said Keri. "Our conversation in our home is if we can, why wouldn't we?"
The need is big. 3,000 to 4,000 Iowa kids are referred to foster care every year. It's 400 to 600 in central Iowa. About 500 families are licensed for foster care in the Des Moines area, but not every home is equipped to handle every kid. Plus, the goal is to keep kids close to their homes.
"There are people in your neighborhood, in your community, in your school, where ever you're living that need available foster parents," said Kai McGee with Four Oaks.
The Four Oaks Family Connection Center in Ankeny is contracted through the Department of Human Services to recruit, train, and assist foster families in 15 counties. Four Oaks Family Connection Program Director Kaci O’Day Goldstein said, "It's not just caring for a child. You're caring for the entire family. You become mentors to the birth parents. We have a strong focus on reunification efforts for children we're caring for."
The process to become a foster parent takes about five months. It includes an application process, extensive background check, and a ten-week training program, which includes three-hour sessions once a week. "The pre-service training is really focused on helping families understand the trauma children experience and how that training can be displayed in the needs that child has," said McGee.
The goal of fostering is to re-unite kids with their biological families. Children can stay with families anywhere from a day to more than a year. McGee said they are looking for all sorts of people across the state to get involved. “You can be a homeowner or a home renter. You can be single or married. You can be cohabitating. There is no upper age range, but you do have to be at least 21 years of age.”
Keri said it’s something her family has found fulfilling. “It adds a little bit of different element to our family, but the positives for our family far exceed the negatives."
Meredith said, "Definitely adds a little more crazy, but it's all good. It's a really good addition to our family for sure."
Her younger sister Emmerson added, "I didn't really know what it was at first, but I'm glad we did it."
Brother Tate said, "People should consider it. It's pretty normal once they're here. They fit in pretty well.”
You can find more information about becoming a foster family at Four Oaks Family Connection’s website.