Students lead foster care discussions



The Foster Fact Fair, a project through the UNI Presidential Scholars Honor program, is hosting a discussion this Saturday, March 30, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Prairie Lakes Church.

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

For many students, graduation and finding jobs after college are currently their top priorities, while parenthood seems far off. Sophomores in the Presidential Scholars Honor program, however, are creating a space for students and Cedar Valley community members alike to learn about the impact foster parenting can have on people’s lives.

The Think Tank Project is a class taught by the Director of the University Honors Program Jessica Moon and is reserved specifically for sophomores in the UNI Honors program.

According to member Rachel Kitrell, sophomore psychology and communications studies double major, the class allows students to focus on service projects to better the Cedar Valley community.

One of three projects to come from this class is the Foster Fact Fair, which will be held this Saturday, March 30, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Prairie Lakes Church (PLC). There will be a Q&A panel and informational booth amongst other services. Kitrell said that PLC allowed them to use their space for free, but this event is open to everyone regardless of religion.

Dylan Haase, sophomore English and public relations double major, is also a part of the honors society group putting on the event.

“Our event is all about giving the public a window into what it’s like to be a foster parent,” Haase said.

Kitrell explained that when their class started, Moon had students choose from three topic areas to make an impact in the community. Those topics were people, safety and social justice. The groups then divided evenly into teams of seven. Kitrell and Haase said their project is focused on the “people” side of the Cedar Valley.

Not everyone in the group was knowledgeable about foster care when this program started, so the students spent most of the fall semester researching the topic. However, one group member already had a good idea as to what the foster care process looks like.

“I personally am very attached to this idea because my family has been a foster family for the past 14 years and we’ve had 16 different children come through our home,” Kitrell said. “We adopted my two youngest siblings.”

Once the group learned more, they began the process of designing the kind of event they wanted to host.

“We thought about different ways to educate the public and we thought the best way was to take a step back to let actual community members who are experienced with foster care tell their stories,” Haase said.

This will be done through the Q&A panel, in which 10 current Black Hawk County foster parents will be sharing their experiences. Haase said that they worked hard to find a diverse range of foster parents dealing with different age groups from infants, adolescents and teenagers.

“By bringing together all those individual voices, we hope to show how diverse the community is and how really everyone can make an impact in some way,” Haase said.

Haase added that the panel would not shy away from the more difficult issues regarding foster parenting.

“But we also want to show the rewarding parts,” he said, “and how there are resources available to help you through those difficult times.”

According to Haase, one of the goals of the event is to get rid of any misconceptions about foster care.

“One of the perceptions is that foster parents have to be a married couple, but that’s not necessarily true. You can be a single parent.” Haase said.

“Only 1.7 percent of adults are registered to be a foster parent and there’s a 4.6 to 1 ratio of foster children to parents. So, 4.6 children for every one licensed parent,” Kirell said. “That just shows how many homes are needed because you can only have five children in a home at once, that includes biological children. So, if it’s 4.6 per one family, that’s impossible.”

Haase said he sees this event as planting a seed in students minds for what they might do in the future.

“College is all about imagining what your adult life could look like,” Haase said. “So, thinking about your career, but also thinking, ‘What does your family look like?’”

Haase said along with resources for community members there will be various booths open that have volunteer opportunities for students. There will also be paperwork and a session for people ready to start the process of becoming a foster parent.

“It’s something that even if people don’t sign up immediately following our event, we could have an impact 20 to 30 years down the road and I think that’s very exciting,” Haase said.