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  1. CAB Connection - January 2023
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 Des Moines - Henry - Louisa Foster Care Review Board

by Georgann Cusack, Program Coordinator


From top left:  Beth Trexel, Melinda Hentzel, Jan Shelman, Unity Stevens, Shelley Reed-Wulf and Kristal King.  Gladys Movall is not pictured.

The Des Moines-Henry-Louisa foster care review board has been active since 1991. They have been flexible with all the changes due to COVID 19 and their geographical locations. I am honored to have them serve on our Foster Care Review Board, via virtually.  

Beth Trexel – Sworn in on 01/12/16. Beth is a respiratory therapist.  She is also an adoptive parent with special needs.  Beth is married and has four children.

Jan Shelman – Sworn in on 05/31/17.  Jan is a recently retired Program Director for Community Based Services. Jan is very knowledgeable of services in the community. She is also an adoptive parent. She is married and has two children.

Unity Stevens – Sworn in on 10/08/21 for both FCRB and CASA. Unity works as a 911 operator.  Previously she was an Overnight Intervention Specialist for people in crisis. Unity is married and has two children.

Shelley Reed-Wulf – Sworn in on 09/07/22. Shelley works as a 911 operator.  Yes, with Unity!  She has a law enforcement background.  Shelley is married and has one child.

Melinda Hentzel – Sworn in on 09/07/22.  Melinda, a previous attorney, now works in accounting and Human Resources.  She is married and has two children.

Gladys Movall – Sworn in on 09/07/22. Gladys is a daycare provider.  Gladys is also the Southeast Chapter Representative for the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (IAAEYC).  

Kristal King – Sworn in as a CASA on 05/08/12, then served on FCRB until she became the facilitator for the Des Moines/Henry/Louisa Board, as well as the Lee County Board. Kristal also maintains full time employment as a banker.

These Board Members and Facilitator wear many hats in their communities.  As you can see, they come from a variety of backgrounds that are beneficial to the children and families they serve.

Anniversaries - Jan 2023

Friends Logo

The Friends of Iowa CASA and ICFCRB board had a busy 4th quarter. The Board's first Year-End Appeal campaign exceeded it's goal of $10,000 - raising just over $18,800 as of New Year's Eve and expected to double the original goal after all check donations are accounted for. 2023 will be off to a fantastic start!

Also in December, the Board hosted a thank you letter event at Principal Financial Group for Principal employees to write thank you letters to CASA and FCRB volunteers for their service to children. Based on the number of employees who gave their time writing the letters, Principal made a donation to Friends, which was $2,000! If your employer has a donation match program or similar volunteer program and you want to bring this event to your community, please contact Meghan Malloy: mmalloy@casaandicfcrb.org.

Finally, the Board was invited to partner with Kendra Scott, a national jewelry and gift store, for a giveback event on Dec. 16-17. Friends of Iowa CASA and ICFCRB received 20 percent of the sales made those two days, which totaled in at $2,3984.02. In addition to fundraising, Meghan Malloy was able to speak to shoppers in the store about the CASA and FCRB programs. She even met a few shoppers who were CASA volunteers themselves!

CASA Policy Updates


Welcome to Our New Volunteers!

Amanda Fox, CASA, Marshall County Hanna Kintz, CASA, Jefferson County
Jackie Konopik, CASA, Dallas County Gloria Martinez, CASA, Polk County
Tricia McCaleb, CASA, Webster County Linaja Mikalonis, CASA, Polk County
Shelle Mosher, FCRB, Decatur County Vickie Peters, FCRB, Clay County
Sarah Rader, CASA, Polk County Rebecca Rens, CASA, Polk County
Jessica Schertz, CASA, Polk County Dani Sieperda Black, CASA, Woodbury
Kathryn Slauson, CASA, Dallas County  


Trainer's Corner

2023 State Office Sessions

Hello from the State Office!!  We are excited to share with you MORE training opportunities as part of the Iowa Child Advocacy Board’s year-long speaker series to support your continuous learning journey within our organization! Join us as we gather together virtually in learning! 

Iowa’s Family Centered Services Sara Buis, HHS Family Centered Services Program Manager will present an overview of Iowa’s array of services provided to families in the child welfare system.  January 24th from Noon to 1pm.  Learn more about these services and be prepared to share your questions from this session for upcoming trainings specific to each service! Click here to register! As this session will be recorded, please only register to attend the live session.

Solution Based Casework Sara Buis, HHS Family Centered Services Program Manager will present on the Solution Based Casework being implemented across Iowa on February 7th from Noon to 1pm.  Learn about this specific service array and get your questions answered! Click here to register! As this session will be recorded, please only register to attend the live session.

Engagement and Safety Decision Making in Substance Use Disorder Cases  Join us to learn from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare!  Kim Bishop and Elizabeth Bullock will discuss how families affected by substance use disorders (SUDs) and involved with child welfare services often face a host of challenges and barriers to family well-being.  Parents with SUDs have a lower likelihood of successful reunification with their children and their children tend to stay longer in the foster care system than children of parents without SUDs.  Effectively assessing safety, risk and protective capacities is an essential element of strong child welfare practices.  This session explores the importance of understanding how stigma and language may affect engagement in safety decision making and provides engagement strategies to support positive outcomes for families.  This session will also define safety factors, risk factors, and parental protective capacities, while highlighting the importance of collaborative decision making with families and community partners to address family needs.  March 29th from Noon to 1:30 pm. Click here to register! As this session will be recorded, please only register to attend the live session.

Family Interactions with HHS Join HHS Sara Buis as we learn more about Family Interactions Plans and the new tools available to the workers to help ensure interactions occur in safe and healthy ways. These plans are tailored to meet the safety needs of the family as a powerful tool for family reunification. Come with your questions! As this session will be recorded, please only register to attend the live session. Click here to register!

Success in the Classroom: Advocating for Youth with Disabilities Participant of this workshop will learn about the ways that students with disabilities can be supported in the classroom and the laws that require accommodations in public education systems. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is described and compared to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) along with some important laws that impact kids with disabilities in the general education classroom.  Participants will get a better understanding of: the process of becoming eligible for support under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the difference between what is available under each type of pla, and laws that impact kids with disabilities in the general education classroom. Join us on May 15th from Noon to 1 pm as Mari Brown  and Deb Chiodo from ASK Resources share this important information. This session meets CASAs annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in-service training requirement. Click here to register!

Tour of ASK Resource Center and Transition Iowa Website Resources  Do you advocate on a case with a child or youth with disabilities? Do you want more resources for advocating for older youth with a disability who is transitioning to adulthood? If so, then this workshop is for YOU!  Participants of this workshop will learn about the resources available on the ASK Resource Center website. ASK is a resource center that is funded in part by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to support families and professionals who advocate for children with disabilities. Participants will get a better understanding of the resources available on ASK’s website regarding IEPs, 504 Plans, and Behavior, the resources available on ASK’s website regarding health, Medicaid, HCBS Waivers, and the resources available on the Transition Iowa website to support transition planning for life after high school for youth with disabilities. Join Mari Reyolds and Deb Chiodo from ASK Resources on May 22 from Noon to 1 pm to find out about all the amazing resources and information available!  Click here to register! This session meets CASAs annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in-service training requirement. 


Why We Do the Work - Improving Outcomes for Children and Families

Hands Holding Family

The child welfare system is in transition. Our policies and practices for helping children and families have changed. Federal and state laws have changed. The past decade has brought a revolutionary shift in understanding that trauma can have a significant impact on individuals, families and our communities. Some of the methods we use to effectively deal with trauma lies in our understanding of how resilience is built, which has also grown by leaps and bounds through the efforts of researchers, practitioners, and the “helpers” of the world.  

So, where are we today? It is understood that children do best, develop into the amazing, wonderful adults they were meant to be, if they can remain with their family while having their needs met and being kept safe. Watch this 2-minute video about asking ourselves tough questions regarding child welfare and this . How we ensure that children’s needs are adequately met and they are kept safe however is what has changed. It is no longer believed that the best course of action for a child that has experienced abuse or neglect entails removing them from their family’s care and being placed into a stranger’s home for foster care. Adding more trauma into a child’s life by removing them from their family, as functional or dysfunctional as society may deem that family to be, does not help build resilience but adds to the child’s initial trauma. In some situations, removal is warranted, but a stranger’s home is no longer the first and primary approach to protecting children. The first response, as challenging as it is when you consider the harm the child has experienced already, is to help the parents remain as caretaker for their children while the child welfare system works to ensure children do not experience additional trauma or to identify relatives or fictive kin that can serve as a short-term placement while the parents address issues.  

This requires a shift in our lens. Watch this 2-minute Strong and Thriving Families What If? video considering a completely different way for the child welfare system. Some may argue that the system has always prioritized families, by providing services to families after abuse or neglect has been identified as having occurred. The difference lies in the framework, the perspective we take, for helping the parents. Services are not only there to reduce the risks, but to actively promote and build upon the family’s strengths with them as an active partner, being shown respect, empathy and compassion from the system, while they are doing the hard work of change. The key is understanding that if we spend more time and money on the front-end building parent’s protective and promotive factors and preventing problems, we can deal with childhood abuse and neglect more effectively. 

Current research tells us that a child’s well-being, along with their relational health as children and as adults, and their healthy brain architecture means having supportive, responsive relationships with their parents.  How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development video effectively outlines what needs to happen. How do we help parents be those supportive responsive parents? By helping the parent understand their own trauma and assisting the parent in building resiliency so their children can remain in their care, or be returned to their family’s care as soon as possible.  The framework to help the parent must be one of making it safe for them to be vulnerable and reduce the shame they may experience from being involved in the child welfare system. They can be a competent partner with the system in creating the child focused changes that will eliminate the system’s involvement in their lives. 

The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University outlines 3 principles to improve outcomes for children and families.

  1. Support responsive relationships for children and adults.
  2. Strengthen core skills for planning, adapting, and achieving goals.
  3. Reduce sources of stress in the lives of children and families.
Science to Policy and Practice

Understanding Principle 1: Support Responsive Relationships

“For children, responsive relationships with adults have a double benefit: promoting healthy brain development and providing the buffering protection needed to prevent very challenging experiences from producing a toxic stress response. For adults, healthy relationships also boost well-being by providing practical advice and emotional support, which strengthen the hope and confidence needed to weather stressful situations. When public policy and effective services for families support responsive, serve-and-return interactions between adults and children—and strong relationships between service providers and their adult clients—they have the power to promote children’s healthy development and reinforce core adult skills, ultimately helping children become healthy, responsive parents themselves.

Why? Responsive relationships early in life are the most important factor in building sturdy brain architecture. Think of building a house: The foundation establishes a base upon which everything else is built. The same is true with developing brains. Brain architecture is comprised of trillions of connections among billions of neurons across different areas of the brain. These connections enable lightning-fast communication among neurons that specialize in different kinds of brain functions.

A major active ingredient in this developmental process is the interaction between children and their parents and with other caregivers in the family or community. When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain. Given the foundational importance of the first few years of life, the need for responsive relationships in a variety of settings, starting in infancy, cannot be overstated.

Supportive relationships also help build a foundation for resilience across childhood and into adulthood. The most common protective factor for children and teens who develop the capacity to overcome serious hardship is having at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. These personalized, responsive relationships buffer children from developmental disruption and model the capabilities that enable individuals to thrive in school, work, and maintaining a stable household.

Responsive relationships help children and adults deal with stress, regulate emotions and behaviors, and build hope for the future. In contrast, the social isolation experienced by many families that are dealing with mental health problems or substance abuse—and the stigma associated with them—also damages relationships and increases isolation. Public policies and human service programs that are specifically designed to support the skills and environments that foster responsive relationships between children and those who care for them support healthy development and improve child outcomes. Likewise, service providers who listen responsively and treat clients with respect are more likely to be effective in promoting positive change.”

Excerpt from: https://devhcdc.wpengine.com/resources/three-early-childhood-development-principles-improve-child-family-outcomes/#responsive-relationships 

How does that impact the questions asked or recommendations made in reports to the court?  Foremost, if a child must be removed from their parent’s care, ensure they are having regular contact with their parent/s and siblings.  Advocates and Board Members can recommend that family interactions include opportunities for the parent to demonstrate responsive care.  Ensure parent’s are receiving effective parenting interventions by asking providers for examples of skill building with parents and occasions when they demonstrate being responsive to their child’s needs during family interactions.  Ask parents what else they need for services to help them understand their child and if they can share examples of when they provided supportive responsive care.  What other ideas do you have for strategies the child welfare system can use to promote positive responsive relationships between parents and their children? Watch for an upcoming 2023 webinar featuring HHS to discuss Family Interactions!

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