Kings & Queens Local Provides Support to Foster and Adoptive Families
A hurting and scared child doesn’t usually understand the unexpected removal from their home or realize their “ordinary” wasn’t necessarily everyone else’s normal. Depending on their age, the whirlwind of new and unexpected change can also add to the trauma already experienced. During this transition, foster families provide care and shine hope and love into hurting hearts that walk through their door.
Kings and Queens Local is a local nonprofit that provides support to foster and adoptive families and hurting children in Dickinson, Clay, Emmet, Osceola, O'Brien, Lyon and other surrounding areas. Because the time with a foster family may be for just a time or could be longer, Kings & Queens Local (KQL)/Kadens Kloset: Okoboji (KKO) offers a resource closet, meals, and a monthly support group for families and children in their care.
“Our desire is to help these children during a tough situation, providing them hope, while also helping support the foster or adoptive family,” shared Tina Vande Hoef, Executive Director of KQL. “We also want to bring awareness to foster parent classes and trauma training to our community.”
Brett and Tina Vande Hoef know firsthand the trauma a child goes through while living in a difficult home. In 2012, the couple was living and working in Northeast Iowa and also volunteered at a local residential treatment center, mentoring students with heartbroken stories.
“I was teaching in Northeast Iowa and saw the struggles kids were facing; schools were doing everything they could to help, but you can only do so much during a school day. It was then I realized that many of those struggles stemmed from their home life not being great,” Tina shared. “We realized we wanted to do more to help.”
The couple signed up for a 10-week foster parent session and then decided to open up their home.
“We said yes to three beautiful siblings and worked alongside their birth family for many months to help them make changes for a healthy home,” she shared. “However, they weren't able to meet the requirements that the state of Iowa set for them and the judge ruled termination of parental rights in 2013, and we committed our life forever through adoption.”
In May 2014, they moved to Northwest Iowa, and they became a family of six when their daughter was born in November.
“We realized after moving to Northwest Iowa, there wasn’t a lot of current support for foster and adoptive families,” Tina said. “In 2016, we decided to advocate for families like ours through KKO. Our vision continues to grow bigger in how we can support families and children, which is why we founded KQL.”
When Department of Human Services pulls a child from the unsafe situation, LSI then finds a foster home and lets the family know about the support KQL provides for the region. Because a child doesn’t generally have time to grab personal belongings before entering a foster home, KKO becomes a haven for needs like schools supplies, toiletry needs, and nice clothes. If a family needs a bed or car seat, they will also help the family secure necessary items in a short time frame. In 2022, KQL provided over 200 children with numerous items.
“We want to provide support during a stressful time, while also bringing awareness to our community. Just because you aren’t a foster family, there are so many ways you can help the foster community and that’s just as important,” Tina said. “For us, our family has a personal understanding of how the system works and can provide compassion and assistance, having walked in their shoes.”
When the Vande Hoefs first moved to the area, there were only seven foster homes available. Today, there are 22 foster families. They have also watched adoption grow in the Iowa Great Lakes, whether it happens domestically, through foster care, or internationally.
KQL has over 50 volunteers throughout the year who serve in a variety of roles. Local businesses provide support financially and KQL has also received several grants.
“We use whatever is given to help the kids, and our businesses in the area have been so supportive and generous,” Tina said. “We also have organizations and groups that come help us with our events or by organizing the resource closet.”
One of KQL’s connective projects every year is called Okoboji Wish, where they partner with Arnolds Park Amusement Park and provide a night at the park for all of their families.
“Some of these kids have never had the opportunity to ride the rides down at the park and the joy on the kids’ faces are indescribable,” she said.
Halfway through the evening, they have a pizza party and get to return to the park for more rides. KQL also hosts a back-to-school bonfire and a Christmas Party for the families and children. Monthly meetings play a vital role in many of the families fostering or who have adopted children.
“An evening at KQL Support Group is designed so the children and their caregivers have some time away from each other. The children go with the childcare providers where they connect and learn through games, stories, and crafts,” Tina explained. “During that same time, the caregivers connect with other caregivers, who walk a similar journey, while learning about the newest information that has to do with trauma-informed care.”
KQL has also provided trauma resources and information to local schools and churches, as well as the local judicial system. “We hired a trainer to help the judicial system and school systems understand what trauma a child may have gone through. What are the words to say or not say? How do you react during a situation?” she added. “The more positive people we can have in a child’s life, we can hope for a positive change. They still have to do their part to change, but positive change is easier when they know people are supporting them.”
There are a number of ways people can support KQL, whether it’s by becoming a yearly partner or by providing toiletry needs, new socks, underwear or pajamas. Vande Hoef said they love their volunteers and so appreciate the support of the community.
“We are so thankful! We always say we don’t spend or do if we don’t have it and we’ve always been blessed,” she added.
Kings & Queens Local strives to support local foster, adoptive and kinship families in many ways. Their efforts include: building connections, providing resources/education, and raising awareness within the larger community.
The nonprofit provide two opportunities a month where caregivers can come together in their current life stage and share among individuals who can relate. One of the two opportunities, children are invited to (free childcare). When the children are present, Kings & Queens Local provides kid-friendly activities in hopes they also connect with other kids who have similar circumstances. Vande Hoef says this has been healing for many of their kids.
Kadens Kloset: Okoboji is a free resource closet where kids can “shop” for free (new clothes, shoes, toys, etc.). Families also receive freezer meals in the hopes that the caregiver has one less thing to worry about. Kings & Queens Local also provides educational evenings where they share the latest mental health resources.
Kings & Queens Local desires to raise awareness within the larger community. They have partnered with local schools, churches and the judicial system to educate about trauma and encourage them in their line of work.