Idaho’s state child welfare system is ranked first in the nation in the ‘Right for Kids Ranking’ released today by the Foundation for Government Accountability, a florida-based, nonprofit, government watchdog organization.
The report scores each state’s child welfare system performance overall, and in 11 key outcome areas.
The top performing states, in order, are Idaho, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida and New Jersey. The Right for Kids Ranking evaluated state child welfare systems based on their performance to:
• Ensure abused children are transitioned to safe and permanent homes as quickly as possible;
• Place children in foster care in supportive, home-like settings that are safe;
• Maintain stable foster placements, so children who are in foster care are not moved from foster home to foster home; and
• Work to reduce the overall incidence of abuse and neglect.
"I am proud of the Department’s hard work and commitment to providing exceptional services for Idaho’s children,” said Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, in a prepared statement released by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This national recognition proves that Idaho’s approach to doing more with less does not mean sacrificing the quality of service Idaho’s children deserve."
The state health department reports that there are, at any given point in time, approximately 1,300 children in foster care in Idaho, which is down from a five year high of 1,900 in 2007. The decline occurred despite the fact that last year, Idaho’s Child Welfare program received a report that a child had been abused, abandoned or neglected every 69 minutes.
The Child Welfare Program has been able to accomplish this by providing more in-home services for families so children can remain safely in their homes, and engaging extended family members to help address the issues and support the family in crisis.
The Right for Kids report commends Idaho for swiftly and effectively working to reunify families.
Rob Luce, administrator of Family and Community Services, which oversees the state’s child welfare program, explained that although the child welfare program has many successes to celebrate, “we are not satisfied with the status quo. Every child deserves to have a loving and caring family and no child should grow up in foster care,” he says. For these reasons, the program in Idaho continues to diligently pursue the most effective, efficient, and economical ways to protect kids and improve outcomes for families.
According to Luce, within the next five years, the child welfare program is committed to significantly reduce the number of children in care and the number of children who ‘graduate’ from foster care without being reunited with their family or being adopted.
With these goals in mind, the Division has implemented or is looking at multiple strategies including:
1. Centralized Intake: A statewide call center of specially trained social workers who assess every initial report of suspected abuse or neglect and assign an appropriate and timely response.
2. Permanency Roundtables and Cold Case Reviews: Roundtables will include multi-disciplinary case consultation for children who are approved for adoption, but waiting in foster care for a permanent home. Cold Case Reviews are judicial reviews of children who have been in foster care for extended periods of time to identify system changes to facilitate permanency.
3. Family LOCATE: A unit that finds unidentified extended family who are invited to re-establish connections with children in foster care with hopes that some children will find permanency.
4. Family Group Decision Making: Brings extended family and friends together to develop a safety plan for a child in care. The group may support the child in birth parent’s home or an alternate placement.
5. County Multi-Disciplinary Teams: Coordinates efforts of multiple agencies to investigate suspected abuse or neglect, assure safety of children, and plan efforts to either reunify families or provide another permanent placement for children.
6. Increasing In-Home services: Addresses safety concerns so children can remain in their homes safely without resorting to an out-of-home placement.
7. Strengthening Community Partnerships: Many non-profits and faith-based organizations can bring resources and volunteers to help children and struggling families.
8. One Church, One Child: Establishes long-term relationships to faith-based organizations to recruit families willing to be foster parents, adopt children or support other church members who are fostering children in the child welfare system.
Foundation for Government Accountability website: www.floridafga.org/
Read the full Right for Kids report below.