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DSM Fellows Capstone Panel: Child Care

Child Care Capstone Panel

During a recent DSM Fellowship Program Capstone presentation, guest panelists discussed child care, focusing specifically on foster care challenges for families and how those challenges impact children. Panelists included:

  • Hannah Beenken, matching specialist at Four Oaks
  • Hannah Browning, case worker and support and licensing worker at Four Oaks
  • Mattie McDowell, case worker at Four Oaks

Foster Care

There are 4,000 children/youth per year that will need a temporary foster home, requiring emotional, mental and physical care. Youth in foster care have experienced trauma, are a diverse population and range from newborns to 18 years of age. One local challenge is having enough homes for children who need care. In 2020, in Story County, there were 34 youths referred to Four Oaks, but only 16 families licensed to provide care.

Making a Difference

Not only is there a need for foster care homes, but there is also a need for respite care, which is temporary care of foster children for a shorter amount of time — a break that usually lasts for a set number of days, between one to three days per month and is commonly scheduled in advance.

Many youth in foster care have challenges in a school-based setting, whether academic, behavioral or social. Learning needs must be considered for children more likely to have individualized education plans, or IEPs, whose challenges could stem from being placed in a new school environment and the anxieties that accompany the many changes foster children deal with when transitioning homes.

Teens in Foster Care

If there’s not enough foster care homes, teens end up in shelters, one of which in Greater Des Moines (DSM) is Iowa Homeless Youth Center. One issue with staying in a shelter is isolation, which can lead to an increase in behavior and mental health issues and needs. On a larger scale, birth parents willing to work on reunification run into roadblocks dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues because of a lack of programming, which slows down the entire reunification process.

The important thing to remember is children in foster care are worthy of making positive changes. As a foster care parent, individuals can take on valuing and caring for children in need and see them flourish in a secure home environment. For those interested in helping with the issue of too few foster homes, here’s what you can do:

  • Know that working with foster children and the foster care system can be challenging.
  • Know how to successfully manage behaviors of challenging children
  • Go through the licensing process to become a foster and/or adoptive family.

Watch the entire webinar below:


Looking for opportunities as a young professional in Greater Des Moines (DSM)? The DSM Fellowship program is the preeminent professional development initiative attracting, developing and retaining a diverse community of top-tier graduates to the region. You can also connect with other young professionals and emerging leaders through Young Professionals Connection (YPC) events and committees.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.