Protecting children from abuse and neglect, healing and reuniting families, and searching for forever homes for children is what our child welfare program does. Based on recent stories in the media and a buzz on social media, you may have heard different opinions about that. But keeping children safe and families together is the main reason so many of us come to work each day. And Health and Welfare employees are not alone in this effort.
Foster parents have a huge role in the lives of children in crisis. So do the courts. And so do the guardians ad litem, prosecutors, the schools and law enforcement.
Protecting children and keeping them safe is a team effort. None of us can safely protect and nurture these children on our own. We need the help and support of each other. Without that, the system becomes dysfunctional. Each of us has to do our part, and rely on our partners to do the same. It needs to be a very collaborative process to succeed.
In Idaho, there are currently 1,300 children in foster care. This year, more than 200 children who can no longer live safely with their birth parents will be adopted. Each child and family has a different story, different circumstances resulting in different needs. Although they are all unique, they share a common thread – a child in crisis.
We are all focused on the same goal for these children – to protect them, preserve their families, and nurture them through crisis to successful adulthood and beyond. We know that our foster parents, social workers, lawmakers, courts, schools and guardians ad litem are dedicated to that mission. They have helped build Idaho’s child welfare system into one of the top performing systems in the nation. But we know it’s not a perfect system, and we want to continually improve it.
We can only do that by bringing everyone to the table – birth and foster families, foster youth and alumni, judges, teachers, peace officers, lawyers, guardians ad litem and social workers. If we want to really improve the system, we need the voices of everyone building consensus and a thoughtful, progressive path forward.
Each and every case carries its own emotional weight that no one stakeholder can manage to carry on their own. As a group, with everyone doing their part, we can make decisions to improve the system. For any change in law or practice, we have to get it right; the stakes are too high not to.