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Giving foster teens a hand

Giving foster teens a hand

New program created to help graduates set up home

A new effort in Floyd County intends to help teenagers who age out of the foster care or other out-of-home care systems — such as group homes — transition to life without that support.

The program being initiated by Families Making Connections will help teens faced with setting up their own households beyond high school.

“For them to set up a household, they don’t have anything,”Jan Streich, coordinator for Families Making Connections. “It’s a huge need.”

For example, the state provides funding to foster parents to help pay for care of children placed in their homes. When a child turns 18, the funding ends, Streich said. That doesn’t mean children and their foster parents have to part ways, but state aid is not there to help with that or to aid the teens in moving onto the next stage of their lives. The Salvation Army has donated $4,000 toward this program, which could include providing essentials such as dishes or kitchen appliances, for example, Streich said.

The program does not have enough funding to help with college supply needs such as laptops, she said.

Previously, Families Making Connections linked area teens with a program in Black Hawk County, but that option has come to an end. The numbers of teens in need of this help increased in Black Hawk County and in the counties served by Families Making Connections — Floyd, Mitchell and Chickasaw.

Families Making Connections also plans to give these teens something else commonplace for their peers but that they were unlikely to receive: a graduation party. A donor has already pledged a cake for the six or seven expected graduates, Streich said. To learn more about the program or to donate, contact Streich at 228-5713, ext. 140.

Families Making Connections is a community planning group that serves Floyd, Mitchell, and Chickasaw county families. It receives decategorization funding from the state’s child welfare and juvenile justice dollars. It focuses on child safety, permanency, academic preparation and skill development, child and family well-being, and safe and secure communities, according to the North Iowa Community Action Organization website.

Some examples of what it does locally includes in-home parenting programs, and family and child education and support. Our Kids Count is such an example. Parents get to spend time with other adults while learning new things about parenting and child development while their child is in free daycare. The group meets twice per month on the second and fourth Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with a free meal at Trinity United Methodist Church. Call 641-426-5940 to learn more.

Families Making Connections also does teen parenting programs. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program ranking county health, Floyd County in 2013, had a pregnancy rate of 35 per 1,000 15 to 19 years olds, which translated into 136 births. That tied Floyd County for the 14th highest teen birth rate among Iowa counties. Butler County’s rate was 23, Chickasaw’s was 22 and Mitchell’s was 16 per 1,000. Cerro Gordo had a higher rate at 30. The lowest rate was 8 in Winneshiek County. The highest was 59 in Marshall County.

Families Making Connections also has helped to get mental health services established in Charles City schools.

By Chris Baldus [email protected]

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