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Foster care system braces for challenges after Roe v. Wade decision

"More kids in the system just means more struggle for a system that's already really overtaxed," said one foster parent.

ANKENY, Iowa — There are kids all over the world looking for a happy, healthy home, But here in Iowa, foster care organizations say the system is strained. They worry the long-term effects of the overturning of Roe v. Wade could put further pressured on an already overworked system. 

KellyMarie Meek and her wife have adopted four children and fostered many others over the course of a decade, but she still feels guilty she can't help out more kids.

"Our system is already overwhelmed, right? My home is theoretically closed at the moment, we really don't have space to take any more kids," Meek said. "And yet, I'm still getting calls for children on a regular basis. Calls not just for single children, but calls for sibling groups of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7."

This is a problem Four Oaks Family and Children Services has been facing for a long time, said Recruitment and Retention Director Kai McGee. 

"There typically is a gap between the numbers of children who need an available foster home and the numbers of families available to provide foster care," McGee said. "That need is pressing and urgent, and it remains pretty consistent year after year."

With changing legislation surrounding the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Meek said she is worried for the potential influx of children in need of foster and adoptive homes. 

"More kids in the system just means more struggle for a system that's already really overtaxed," Meek said.

McGee said she doesn't think the impact will be instant, but parents who bring a child into the world post-Roe have fewer options, leading to a need for the help that is still available. 

"We could see a rise in the number of kids entering foster care," McGee said. "The impact that I'm hoping for is that I hope that it drives a discussion of the needs of vulnerable children, and the desire for people who want to help vulnerable children. I hope that this causes them to consider getting involved with foster care." 

Meek said although they need more foster parents, they aren't just looking for anyone to fill that role. 

"If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, we do need you, but we need you for the right reasons," Meek said.  

Both Four Oaks and Meek said foster care is meant to be safe, stable, temporary care for children who have experienced abuse or neglect and need to be separated from their family of origin for a period of time. However, the goal of foster care is always reunification. 

Four Oaks said the foster care system is not just struggling to find foster parents, they are also in need of caseworkers as overturn happens at a high rate in this career. 

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