May is National Foster Care Month, and the celebration in Iowa is featuring something new this year. Amy Juhnke of Iowa KidsNet, says the National Heart Gallery exhibit is on display at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines as part of the festivities.
“It’s got what we call larger-than-life portraits of kids in foster care waiting for what we call forever families waiting to be adopted,” Juhnke explains. “There is one child from almost all 50 states, and of course stars one of our own Iowa kids in it.” The gallery will be on display at the West Des Moine mall through May 15th, and then it moves to the Sioux City Public Museum on May 17th.
Juhnke says the gallery does a good job of getting beyond some of the stereotypes of foster kids. “A lot of people have a lot of basically false understanding of the kids in foster care. When you look at this exhibit, you see that they are just kids like other kids. They have been in some unfortunate situations that are not their fault. A lot of media, or after school specials portray kids in a certain way,” Juhnke says.
While Juhnke says foster kids are just like other kids, she says foster parents aren’t put in one mold. “There is no typical foster family. You know, each child has unique needs and so they all have a different fit,” Juhnke says. She says you can be single parent, you don’t have to be a certain age and they give everyone a mandatory 10-week training course on how to be a foster parent. “So there’s no one role model or model or characteristic that makes a good foster parent.”
The first step in becoming a foster parent is to go to the organization’s website or call them. She says they have the whole process at IowaKidsNet.com, and they have people who can talk to you and answer your questions.
You can call 1-800-243-0756 to speak with someone about becoming a foster parent. Once you become a foster parent, Juhnke says Iowa KidsNet has a support network in all 99 counties to help you out.