Gay marriage, property rights, a campaign and foster care

My first outing this morning was to Iowa Public Television, where we taped this evening’s Iowa Press.  It’s one of those "reporters’ roundtables" where four of us sit around, Dean Borg asks us questions and we talk among ourselves to fill the show.  As reporters, this is our least-favorite show because it does not yield a story and we are constantly amazed when viewers tell us it’s their favorite kind of show.  The first question for this latest show came to me, and it was about the wind-down of the gubernatorial campaign.  Seems to me there’s a lack of interest among Iowans in this race, and I shared that bit along with a few others.

As an aside, we were just talking among ourselves here in the Radio Iowa office (Kay, Todd Kimm & Dar Danielson) about Chet Culver’s commercial — the one where he rather awkwardly holds his "plan" up for the camera at the end.  The black-bound book with the title "Leading Iowa Forward" on it.

"Do you have a copy of that?" Todd asked me.

"No, I think they just took the Hoover playbook and put a different cover on it for the spot," I said. 

Todd replied:  "The Hoover playbook isn’t that thick."

(Background: Culver was an assistant football coach at Des Moines Hoover.) 

After Iowa Press, it was back to the Radio Iowa office where I tried to play catch-up on the legal arguments that took place this morning over gay marriage.  In the middle of that, courtesy of our contributors at KUNI, I edited a short piece about turn-out predictions for Tuesday’s primary (abysmal to light) and a story for tomorrow with a pretty interesting author from Stuart, Iowa.  Then a reporter friend now working at a radio station in Columbia, Missouri called about a swindling case involving cattle.  An Iowa farmer is among those who got ripped off, and he shared the story with us.

Then it was off to the statehouse for Governor Tom Vilsack’s 1:30 p.m. announcement on the eminent domain bill, which he vetoed.  The governor’s staff had been on the phone and the room was packed with Chamber Alliance folks, mayors, city council people and developer types who opposed the bill.  The temperature in the room was about 10 degrees above comfortable.

Vilsack concluded his remarks with the following:  "Let’s figure this out.  Let’s be reasonable….I believe we can do that.  I hope we can.  Questions?"

At that point I started to ask a question, but then the people Vilsack’s staff had arranged to be in the room started applauding. The clapping died down after about 15 seconds.

"Kay, you should quit while you’re ahead," Vilsack then told me.  The crowd laughed.

You can find analysis of the politics of this veto elsewhere.  I wrote the story about Vilasck’s veto, then ran outside to the west steps of the statehouse where some of the folks who’d gathered for a two o’clock Vilsack bill signing were still gathered.

It’s an interesting bill.  It deals with foster care kids.  Today, when a kid in foster care turns 18 or graduates from high school they’re kicked out of the system.  Starting this July 1st, if the kid wants to, he or she can say with that foster care family and continue to be covered by health insurance paid for by the state.  The foster care support ends at age 21.

As Roger Munns, the spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services just explained to me over the phone, most of the 550 Iowa foster kids who’ll turn 18 this year do not go on to college.  So this will allow that foster family to get paid for providing room-and-board for the kid as he or she gets a job, finds an apartment and moves in to it. 

Munns also recounted for me the story of Reggie Kelsey who died six or seven years ago in Des Moines.  Kelsey was a "toubled’ kid who kicked around the system from foster family to foster family.  He was in and out of school for various reasons, some related to taking a weapon into school.  At 18, Kelsey got "aged out" of the foster care system and started living on the street.  He was found dead about a year later in what Munns says are suspicious circumstances.

Munns says officials estimate that about 100 of the 550 kids that "age out" of foster care each year will take advantage of the extension.  To state the obvious, there’s no way of knowing if Kelsey would have chosen to continue a relationship with a foster family past his 18th birthday. But legislators who crafted this bill and the Department of Human Services director who made it his top priority this year hope it may help some kids who’ve been so abused in life that they end up in the foster care system.

P.S.  There’s another post about the politics of the eminent domain bill.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Sadley Kelsey’s story is mirrored in the care system in the UK which is constantly looking at the failure of authorities to meet the needs of young people who continue to require at the least a roof over their head and often specialised support past the ‘magic age’ when authorities can wash their hands of their legal commitment to provide basic support. Stan Webb, Simply Fostering.