Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA) visited a new project in Iowa yesterday that aims to smooth the transition for foster children who age out of the system. Sponsors of the “Bridging the Gap” program, including young people and CWLA member Four Oaks , met with Grassley to discuss the program. Grassley is the former chair and current member of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over federal child welfare programs. He is also co-founder and co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, and the recipient of the CWLA 2011 Congressional Advocate of the Year Award.
Jim Ernst, executive director of Four Oaks thanked the Senator for visiting the program. “Senator Grassley is a leader on child welfare issues in Congress and in Iowa and is demonstrating his leadership and commitment with his visit today” he said. “He takes these issues and these children seriously” he continued.
The new program based in Cedar Rapids aims to fill a suitcase with items for each foster child who reaches 18 and has to leave the system. “This may sound like not much, but for these kids, it’s an awful good thing, things like bedding, pots and pans and cleaning supplies,” Grassley says. “This effort is so valuable.”
Grassley continued: “If there’s one thing I have learned from kids that are in foster care, what they’d like to do is be like other kids, have a permanent home, have a loving mother and dad.” In the Cedar Rapids area alone 900 children are in foster care and every year at least 25 of them turn 18, graduate from high school and are sent into the world.
Four Oaks has grown to become one of Iowa’s primary providers of youth services, serving more than 14,000 children and families each year. It is an agency that believes in a family-based treatment philosophy where children do best in families, and families do best in communities that support them.