Idaho’s state child welfare system is ranked number one in the nation in the ‘Right for Kids Ranking’ released by the Foundation for Government Accountability today. According to the Foundation, the ranking is the first of its kind to comprehensively and holistically rate the top performing child welfare systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“We are humbled and honored to receive such high marks from the Foundation for the services we provide to protect children and strengthen families,” says Rob Luce, administrator of Family and Community Services, which oversees the state’s child welfare program. “Our social workers have one of the hardest jobs imaginable. It is truly rewarding to see others recognize the outstanding work we do.”
The study evaluated 11 key outcome areas and 41 data measures. 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:
"I am proud of the Department’s hard work and commitment to providing exceptional services for Idaho’s children,” says Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. “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."
Last year, Idaho’s Child Welfare program received a report that a child had been abused, abandoned or neglected every 69 minutes. At any given point in time there are approximately 1,300 children in foster care in Idaho, which is down from a five year high of 1,900 in 2007. 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.
Luce went on to explain 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 and/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/