Guest Columnists

We need innovative solutions

A person walks across 2nd Avenue in the skywalk between 2nd and 3rd Street in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday, December 23, 2013. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
A person walks across 2nd Avenue in the skywalk between 2nd and 3rd Street in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday, December 23, 2013. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

Let’s think outside the box. Perhaps we need those with a professional background to answer the detailed questions by our overlooked community. The overlooked community includes the mentally ill, those with intellectual disabilities, those in foster homes, those recently adopted, those recently released from prison, the veterans who have no access to employment and self-sufficiency and women who are heads of households with dependent children. It sounds like a duke’s mixture, but they all need a common solution. They need specialists, not amateurs.

How about using the innovation that we have in the medical community? Folks see a family doctor who gives a referral to the specialist that they need to see. We would finance this change in approach by getting financing at the state level, as we have done in secondary education and mental health funding. We can similarly give stability to the voiceless.

State Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, and Jerry Foxhoven, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, who has been on the job for three months, have pinpointed some of the gaps in social services. Workers have been working long hours, overtime, to fix a lack of uniform rules. Volunteer organizations don’t have the same state standards as state-sponsored organizations. Perhaps we need a tune-up and an expansion.

The big issue now is teenagers starving. We’ve had two cases in the past year where foster and adopted children have died of starvation. Obviously, there was an error in placing the children with unqualified parents. Then the state dropped the ball. McCoy is arguing the state needs to have more requirements imposed on providers. For example, the state could oversee foster parents and adoptive parents to provide assurances that the foster children and adoptive children are attending school and are seeing a medical doctor at least once a year.

And that brings us to us. We, too, may need a permanent fix. Our folks are facing another kind of starvation. Homeless and the criminal element are starving physically and intellectually. We could easily intervene in dementia and Alzheimer’s situations by requiring nursing homes to provide patients with cognitive brain tests once a year, just as McCoy is suggesting with foster children. Our folks also need support from the state taxation system.

Perhaps we need to employ more social workers at the state level to minister to our overlooked sector. Right now, we rely on volunteers and makeshift training to serve our area. Perhaps it’s time for us to consider hiring professionals to provide counseling. If the state would employ the counselors, that would solve the problem of underfunding in this area. And, of course, we need funds to start our dream of a Second Step initiative. We need tutoring, workshops and boot camps. Experts realize that changes are needed in the foster and adoptive homes. We, too, need help, particularly to make our clientele aware of the opportunities available to them.

• Al Swegle, of Cedar Rapids, was The Gazette’s farm editor from 1968 to 1987



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