Volunteers needed for Certified Respite Provider program

A program that provides Northeast Iowa foster parents with some time off has a new service area and a need for more volunteers.

Respite Options of Northeast Iowa provides foster parents with an in-home certified care provider enabling them to get away for a day, weekend or vacation. Previously, they had to leave their children in another foster home. The program has partnered with the Luther College Social Work Program and Britt Rhodes, Luther associate professor of social work, to conduct the background studies for each applicant. Luther students have also been involved as respite foster care providers along with other community members in northeast Iowa.

For Kathy Novy, a foster mom in Denver, Iowa, the program, originally established by the Wartburg College social work department and the Allison Area Foster Parent Association, has worked "beautifully."

"We've used the program for a day here or there and a couple of times in an emergency," Novy said. "It helps relieve stress and allows us to do things we could not do with the kids along."

The program, which started in Bremer, Butler, Franklin and Grundy counties, expanded last year into Howard, Allamakee, Winneshiek, Clayton, Chickasaw and Fayette counties. Respite Options now offers services in Delaware, Dubuque and Buchanan counties but still needs more respite providers.

The program expansions include partnerships with the social work departments at Luther College, Loras College in Dubuque and Warburg College in Waverly. The expansions are funded through a $25,000 contract with the Iowa Department of Human Services.

"We need a wider circle of providers, and we're hoping to attract even more college students and other interested adults," said Nancy Magnall, resource information specialist with the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association.

Providers must be at least 20 years old, complete an application and certification process, and be able to make a one-year commitment to the program. This is not a paid position, but respite providers do receive a small stipend and help with mileage costs when they travel to do respite care.

Training is offered in Waverly, beginning in January, and in Decorah and Dubuque, beginning in February. The program has trained 46 volunteers, including college students, former foster parents and adult children of foster families.

If interested in becoming a certified respite provider, contact Nancy Magnall, (877) 467-4100, (319) 352-3600 or [email protected].