A program that provides Iowa foster parents with time off from the day-to-day challenges of foster parenting is looking for new volunteers in 2020.

Respite Options of Northeast Iowa will offer a free training course on two Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 15, from 9:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., at the Cedar Falls Public Library, 524 Main St. Attendance at both sessions is required. Potential respite providers also must complete CPR/First Aid and Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse trainings.

“We need a wider circle of providers, and we’re hoping to attract even more college students and other interested adults,” said Kate Haberman, project coordinator.

Respite Options provides foster parents with an in-home certified care provider enabling them to get away for a day, weekend or longer vacation. The program allows children to stay in their own home and sleep in their own beds while their foster parents are away, rather than the children having to relocate to another foster home.

Providers must be at least 19 years old at the time of application and 20 years old to provide respite, complete an application and certification process, and be able to make a one-year commitment to the program. While this is an unpaid position, respite providers do receive a small stipend and help with mileage costs when they travel to do respite.

“What we liked was it was less stressful for the kids because they could stay in the home. It wasn’t so traumatic for them [to have us leave for the weekend],” said one foster parent when asked about the Respite Options program.

Respite Options, funded through the Iowa Department of Human Services, seeks community members to support foster families. Family and friends of licensed foster families are especially encouraged to apply.

The program, started in 2010 in partnership with Wartburg College, has since expanded to serve all foster families in Iowa by also partnering with the Loras College and Luther College social work departments.

Those interested in becoming certified respite providers should contact Haberman at (319) 596-5781 or respiteoptions@monarchtherapyservices.com.