In FD, experts, parents talk of foster benefits

Representatives from a statewide foster and adoptive parent agency teamed up with local foster parents in Fort Dodge Thursday to talk about the need for more people to get involved.

The open house, which was held Thursday night at Second Baptist Church, 1827 Fourth Ave. S., was hosted by Iowa KidsNet.

Pam Bradshaw, recruitment and support specialist for Iowa KidsNet, said the purpose of the meeting was to spread the word about the need for foster parents.

“We’re hoping that tonight will help business owners become aware of the need for foster parents,” Bradshaw said. “We hope they’ll walk away from tonight and bring fliers to their business to display for everyone to see. We’re also hoping more churches will come forward to put these announcements in their bulletins.”

In one year alone, Bradshaw said more than 144 children were referred to foster care, even though only 55 resource families were available.

“Now it’s even less than that,” she said. “We’re constantly doing recruiting and hoping people come forward.”

Bambi Schrader, recruiter-licensing supervisor for Iowa KidsNet, said talking about the need for foster parents on a one-on-one basis is helpful.

“We ask them to take the message back, and that gets the foot in the door,” she said. “If they personally ask, they’re more likely to follow through than a complete stranger telling them.”

Schrader said the biggest need for foster parents is for teenagers.

“There’s such a short time for individual living,” she said. “They really just need parents to help them learn how to survive as adults. If we don’t prepare them, we’ll have kids that are on the other side of the system.”

There’s also a demand for families willing to foster sibling groups.

A number of foster parents attended the open house to talk about their experiences.

Marion Dencklau and her husband, Jerry Dencklau, both of Thor, have raised more than 35 foster children as a couple.

Marion Dencklau first began raising foster children as a single parent in 1992 after her youngest daughter graduated from high school. She was inspired to become a foster parent after her daughter’s friends began coming to her for help with personal and family situations.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” Marion Dencklau said. “We give them hope and a safe place to stay. We give them a nurturing environment as well as structure.”

When she and Jerry Dencklau got married in 2002, they began raising foster children together.

The Dencklaus have mostly fostered teenagers.

“We had a couple younger ones, but they kept running around and it was hard for us to keep up with them,” Jerry Dencklau said. “With teenagers you can at least reason with them.”

Another couple, Sharon and Don Vogel, of Fort Dodge, have fostered preteens and teenagers.

“They’re easy to care for,” Sharon Vogel said. “They just want love and attention and a nice place to live. They don’t ask for a lot, and just want a place without chaos or dysfunction.”

Don Vogel agreed about the positive experience.

“It’s nice to be of use to them,” he said. “I like to see them grow up and do well.”