From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A reminder on to safely celebrate the upcoming holidays and an update on our strategic plan

How are you preparing for the upcoming holidays? If you are like me, you are looking forward to decorating the tree, seeing the light displays in your neighborhood, pumpkin pie, and spending time with family.

I want each of you to enjoy the upcoming season. And even more than that, I want everyone to be safe during their holiday celebrations. I know we all want to spend the holidays with our families. And, I know we also want to keep our loved ones safe and healthy.

What we know today is that most of the new COVID-19 cases in Idaho are coming from smaller gatherings. These gatherings create transmissible moments as families and friends spend time in close proximity to one another.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions gives numerous tips on how to celebrate safety. I hope you will take time to review them as you plan for the holiday season. And, keep reading my blog for ideas and reminders about the holidays.

Making progress toward Strategic Goal 2: Protect children, youth, and vulnerable adults

Finding safe, permanent homes for children who have experienced abuse or neglect is a top priority for the work we do at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW). Children who have experienced trauma need and deserve permanency in their living situations in order to heal, develop, and thrive. Lack of permanency and stability is detrimental to children’s sense of safety, security, and overall well-being.

The DHW’s Child Welfare Program, in the Division of Family and Community Services, is committed to ensuring that children do not linger in the foster care system a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. We ensure that children are only removed from their homes when safety issues cannot be effectively managed with an in-home safety plan.

Unfortunately, sometimes it is not possible to safely return children to their families. In these situations, our priority is to place children in a timely manner with a family who can meet their lifelong needs through a permanency placement – adoption or permanent guardianship.

One of our objectives in the DHW Strategic Plan is to re-think and re-design the way we manage permanency placements. For some time, our permanency caseworkers have had caseloads that have been overwhelming. This means that children in foster care were not always placed in their permanent placements as quickly as they deserved to be.

However, we are in the process of implementing process redesigns that have already begun to change this. Our Child Welfare Program staff have begun completing strategic work that has resulted in a flurry of placements and adoptions. The new processes will also ensure faster placement times in the future.

Staff reviewed every permanency case and identified the children who could most readily have their adoptions finalized.  One Hundred Seventy-Four children were identified through this effort, and we are delighted to report that all of these children are now in the process of having their adoptions finalized. One of the greatest privileges I have is to sign the paperwork for foster care adoptions. So far, I have personally signed the adoption paperwork for 24 of the 174 placed children. There are dozens more making their way through the adoption process, and we are hard at work with our court partners to schedule their adoptions.

Another important development this team has made is redesigning the way our staff work together to find permanent placements as quickly as possible. This means that while case managers oversee the case to ensure children are well looked after while they are in our care, we are also assigning a permanency worker to work right along their side; we don’t lose a moment handing cases over to permanency workers, because they are there with the child earlier in process. They are already familiar with the child and his or her circumstances by the time the child is ready for adoption or guardianship.

As we work to strengthen the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans, we are proud to share our work with the people of Idaho as we move forward in our strategic goals. You can follow our work and read more about our Strategic Plan on our website.

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