On Friday, October 20th, 2017, members of all political parties, national experts, and a group of over 60 concerned citizens met at the Child Welfare Reform Forum 2017 to discuss urgent family matters. The event was held at the Iowa State Capitol Building in Des Moines
Families United Action Network (FUAN)
Iowa Family Preservation Project (IFPP)
Leading Women For Shared Parenting
Family Forward Project and
Paternal Guardians of Iowa and other affiliates hosted the event
“Child Welfare Reform Forum 2017” geared at discussing matters related to child protective services and custodial divisions. Issues such as these have been a highly sensitive talking point as of late due to the high profile cases in Iowa such as Natalie Finn, Mason Wycoff, Sabrina Ray, and Malaya Knapp. However, as many are finding out this is a national, systemic, and ongoing epidemic that is placing children, families, and the community at risk.
This event is different than meetings hosted by legislators on these topics. It did not focus on the state DHS budget, the number of social workers, homeschooling, or employee morale.
This event focused more on matters from the child's perspective, biological family and extended families' experiences, reflections from attorneys, and members of all political parties.
There was little reference to any individual case. System improvements/solutions were the intended purpose of this event. While specific speakers' ideas may have been different, the need to not only reform but rather “replace the current child protective services” was a re-occurring comment from all speakers and community members at this event.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jon Neiderbach stated, “I came more to listen, but this is very interesting. I think that the statement that child protective services needs to be totally revamped is, if anything, understated. Everyone knew we had these problems 25 years ago. It is depressing that nothing has changed.
The case for change is imperative because the system is getting worse. To see why so few changes have occurred one must look at who spends their time chasing this federal dollar, and why they would like the system to stay the same. What will we do today to ensure that we do not have these problems tomorrow?”
Other speakers included Connie Reguli, a Tennessee attorney and the founder of “Family Forward Project,” Dr. Lynn Kahn, the Independent Party of Iowa 2016 presidential candidate, ADA advocates Tanya Myers and Melissa Martin, and several members of the community who gave personal testimonies.
The keynote address of the day came from the organization Families United Action Network (FUAN) as they presented their 2018 legislative recommendations of how to improve family matters in Iowa. Their recommendations include addressing primarily Iowa code 598 and chapter 232 dealing with custodial divisions, parental terminations, child protective services, foster care, and adoptive situations, and more.
Nicholas Dreeszen, (FUAN) Chief Executive Director, explained how their volunteer organization deals with many different areas affected by these family issues. This fact has lead FUAN to develop various committees to help maintain specific, focused projects that relate to individuals time, talent, and area of interest to piece together the “full picture.”
Travis Grassel, (FUAN) Lead Lobbyist, and Toya Johnson, Executive Director of FUAN and founder of Iowa Citizens For Justice, presented many recommendations.
A few of the recommendations by Families United Action Network (FUAN) include:
- A “rebuttable presumption of Shared Parenting” during custodial division.
- Changing the DHS child protective service call-in line from "anonymous" to "confidential" status while doing a study to determine the amount of “retaliatory calls.”
- Defining and setting consequences for Parental Alienation as a mental and emotional form of child abuse.
- Abolishing the current CPS system and creating a new “family service agency.”
- Keeping siblings together, and having blood family placement as a priority.
- Reviewing Title IV federal funding streams.
These groups plan to host several events throughout the state of Iowa, and possibly national events to increase education, awareness, and lobbying communications of many obvious yet overlooked reforms that are leading to almost daily tragedies of children that are forced to deal with the foster/state systems.
On behalf of Families United Action Network (FUAN), Iowa Family Preservation Project (IFPP), and all other organizations involved in this event, we would like to say thank you to our speakers, Connie Reguli, Dr. Lynn Kahn, and Jon Neiderbach.
And a well-deserved shout out to our presenters too. Last, but certainly not least, kudos to all of the extraordinary, concerned citizens who attended this event.
Connie Reguli, National Family Law Reform expert, an attorney who has been a family law attorney for over 20 years and who has worked in multiple states says, "It doesn't matter where I go, I hear the same tragedies."
The Federal government has established a funding scheme which rewards the states for keeping children trapped in the court system."
Dr. Lynn Kahn, Independent Party of Iowa 2016 presidential candidate, stated; “Yes, this is really what’s happening!”