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DHS to Make Big Changes for Foster Parents

Aug 10, 2022

The Foster SQUAD and DHS met to discuss issues foster parents are are struggling with.

The Foster SQUAD, an Ankeny-based non-profit, met with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) leadership team in May to bring awareness of concerns foster families face in Iowa.

Traci Schermerhorn, co-founder and president of the Foster SQUAD said, “We started the Foster SQUAD to support foster families and help serve as their collective voice. We consistently hear from foster parents that daycare reimbursement is a big issue. A lot of families can’t afford to prepay for childcare when they are already paying out of pocket for supplies and essential items when a child is placed with them.”

Under the current policy, foster parents are reimbursed 100% of a child’s daycare expense if they use a center that accepts DHS rates. The foster parent prepays the daycare expense and submits receipts to their caseworker for reimbursement. This process takes time and foster parents often find themselves owed hundreds of dollars.

“We’ve known this was an issue for years and assumed there wasn’t a fix for it,” Schermerhorn explains. “When we met with Iowa Department of Health and Human Services Director Kelly Garcia, I was surprised she didn’t know this was an issue for foster parents.”

Schermerhorn says when she and Tara Konecne, Foster SQUAD Director of Development, left the meeting they were both hopeful that the DHS leadership team would investigate the daycare concern. Less than a month later, Konecne received an email from Garcia stating that she was changing the reimbursement process. Foster parents will no longer pay out of pocket for daycare at approved DHS providers.

“I was blown away at how quickly she made this change,” Konecne said. “We discussed a direct bill option at the meeting but Traci and I both thought it would take months to get something like this put into place.”

"The work that Traci and the Foster Squad are doing to support foster parents in Iowa is incredible and I’m grateful to them for bringing the childcare reimbursement issue to my attention,” says Director Garcia. “This change not only serves to alleviate financial strain for families caring for some of Iowan’s most vulnerable children, it also gains efficiency in our internal process. Improvement in service delivery for Iowans and streamlining systems are hallmark themes for our new agency, and this change checks both boxes.”

Chelsea Adams is a foster parent who has been owed up to $3000 in past daycare reimbursement. “I literally had tears in my eyes when I found out about this change. This will take so much burden off foster families. I’m so thankful to the Foster SQUAD for listening and advocating for the needs of foster families and to DHS for listening and acting so quickly.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says, “Director Garcia and her team have done an incredible job meeting with Iowans and stakeholder groups to learn about the issues affecting them and explore and implement solutions that streamline operations and inefficiencies. Kelly is a true leader that is constantly thinking outside the box, challenging the status quo and striving for the best care for all Iowans.”

About the Foster SQUAD

The Foster SQUAD was founded in 2019. They provide care kits (backpacks with essential items) to kids who enter foster care in central Iowa. The Foster SQUAD also partners with Children and Families of Iowa to offer a monthly support group.

About Director Garcia

Kelly Garcia was appointed by Governor Reynolds as Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) in 2019. Unanimously confirmed by the Iowa Senate on February 26, 2020, Garcia was then appointed as interim director of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) in August 2020. Effective July 1, 2022, DHS and IDPH merged to become the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.


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