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posted on October 29, 2013 14:11

Idaho’s Child Welfare program has received federal approval to broaden its use of federal funds to include in-home preventive and treatment services for families who are struggling, with an aim to keep children in their homes and out of foster care.

The $83 million demonstration waiver is a five-year pilot program in which federal funds currently earmarked for out-of-home foster care and adoption payments can be used for treatment and preventive services.  With in-home services, Department of Health and Welfare social workers can help stabilize family crises so some children can safely remain in their homes. The demonstration waiver begins July 1, 2014.

“We know we can achieve better outcomes for children if we can keep them safely with their families while we help them work through their issues,” says Rob Luce, administrator for the Division of Family and Community Services. “The problem in providing preventive and treatment services is the lack of funding—the majority of our federal funds are restricted to out-of- home placements. We want more flexibility to provide services to avert placement, which we hope will improve outcomes and save taxpayer dollars.”

The Idaho Child Welfare program plans to use this funding flexibility to help fund services that include:

  1. Trauma-Informed Services: Most abused or neglected children and their parents have suffered from a major traumatic event in their lives. Trauma Informed Services addresses the trauma to reduce stress and safety issues for the family.
  2. 2. Family-Group Decision-Making: Engages extended family and friends of a struggling family for their support in protecting the children and helping the parents deal with issues that pose a safety threat.
  3. Evidence-Based Parenting Classes: Evidence-based classes give parents the tools they need to provide a safe environment for their children.

Funding also will be used for families who have been reunited with their children after placement in foster care to address issues that might arise.  These in-home services may allow children to remain safely in their homes and not reenter foster care if problems arise.  “We believe this opportunity may impact the national model of child welfare services from one that reacts to abuse and neglect, to one that focuses on prevention and stabilization when possible,”  Luce says.

The Idaho Child Welfare program provided foster care services for 2,388 children during SFY 2013. On any given day in Idaho, there are approximately 1,300 children in foster care.  Federal funding is based on the number of children in out-of-home placements. With this waiver, however, funding will not decrease if the state is successful in reducing the number of foster children by providing more in-home services. Any savings the state realizes over the course of the demonstration waiver will be reinvested in the Idaho Child Welfare program.