DHW is here to support the most vulnerable Idaho residents: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

At the Department of Health and Welfare, our mission is to strengthen the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. As you might guess, the positive impact we have on individuals and their families is ongoing and significant. We help people in crisis: struggling families needing a safe place to raise their children; people in the midst of a physical or mental health crisis; and families who need temporary public assistance to feed themselves and their children. These are just a few examples of how we serve those in need.

Now, add a global, devastating pandemic to the mix. The impact of COVID-19 on the United States is immeasurable. Here, in our home state, Idahoans have lost their jobs, closed the doors to their small businesses, or contracted COVID-19.

Now, what we do and how we do it, is more important than ever to the people of Idaho. We do not take this responsibility lightly. We spend many hours each day developing plans and removing barriers to better serve Idahoans. It’s not easy, but we want to always be there for Idahoans during dark days and difficult times. We want to create paths to healthier futures and more self-reliant Idahoans. Our goal is always to help Idahoans be as independent as possible and live their best lives.

Continue reading “DHW is here to support the most vulnerable Idaho residents: A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”

Music therapy: Helping us all engage in new ways

Kate Schnieder, board-certified music therapist at The Lotus Tree Sensory Integration Center in Boise, guides her piano duet with Client N as they work up to the grand finale of their piano duet.
Kate Schnieder, board-certified music therapist at The Lotus Tree Sensory Integration Center in Boise, guides her piano duet with Client N as they work up to the grand finale of their piano duet.

As her fingers gracefully dance over the keyboard, Kate Schnieder, board-certified music therapist at The Lotus Tree Sensory Integration Center in Boise, guides her piano duet partner, Client N, with sing-song directions. “Now, play with two fin-gers … three fin-gers … fo-ur …” Client N catches on to the pattern and takes over, exclaiming, “Five! Six!” The notes ring true, as Client N reads from color-coded sheet music and strikes the corresponding color-coded keys on the keyboard.

Playing louder and louder, she reaches the point where all 10 fingers are crashing down on the keyboard. Kate and Client N reach the end of the notes on the page, and Client N takes a deep breath. She finishes the song dramatically, in grand concert style, with a final decisive strike on the keys – wrists arched, fingers straight in little teepee arrangements, head thrown back triumphantly. She pauses, allowing the final notes to echo through the room before fading away.

A shy grin spreads across her face and she whispers to Kate, “Did they see?” She wants to check whether we had noticed her captivating performance from across the room. Continue reading “Music therapy: Helping us all engage in new ways”

Carlos Ramos observes a parent and a child on a supervised visit.

A day in the life of Carlos Ramos, psychosocial rehabilitation specialist at DHW

As Carlos Ramos, psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, breezes through the regional office where he is based, his banter with colleagues leaves a warm wake of energy, humor, and generosity. His every interaction speaks of his inspired dedication to his team’s work, and his obvious passion for helping Idahoans.

Carlos Ramos, pyschosocial rehabilitation specialist, and Christine Poff, client services technician, pause for a photo before starting their work day in Family and Community Services. See page 3 to read about a day in the life of Carlos.
Carlos Ramos, pyschosocial rehabilitation specialist, and Christine Poff, client services technician, pause for a photo before starting their work day in Family and Community Services.

Carlos has worked for the state for more than 11 years. When we meet him, it has been two weeks since his promotion to the newly developed role of psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, although he prefers to refer to his role as “family engagement specialist.” Prior to this, he was a client services technician for several years. His work involved providing support for supervised visits between children who are in foster care and their families. In his new role, he focuses more on proactive training and relationship building between clients and department staff. Ultimately, his work is always focused on providing support and resources that will lead toward the path of safe reunification for the family.

Carlos glows with natural charm as he introduces us to his colleagues in the office. He poses for a picture with one colleague, Christine Poff, teasing her (or himself): “You should sit down for this photo. You’re too tall!” he says. To another colleague, he checks that they are still planning on having tamales for lunch sometime this week. He checks the staff notes board to see if his former supervisor, Sharon Campbell, is in. He describes her as “magic” and talks about her glowingly and at length throughout our visit. A colleague appears from a visitation room cradling a baby, and Carlos strides over, unable to help himself from joining in. As he leans down toward the baby, his normal smile broadens and beams over his entire face. “You’re one of those cute babies!” he coos. Continue reading “A day in the life of Carlos Ramos, psychosocial rehabilitation specialist at DHW”

A day in the lives of DHW self-reliance specialists for Child Support Services

Throw out your preconceived notions of a customer service representative who takes orders and transfers calls. In today’s world, at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), customer service representatives are problem-solvers and communicators. They are investigators and protectors. They listen to understand, and they speak with smiles guaranteed to comfort confused and anxious callers.

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Self-reliance specialist Ambrosia Felton keeps her thank you notes on her desk to remind her of the people she has helped.

Their titles today are more reflective of their purpose. They are self-reliance specialists, and they are resolute in their goal to help their customers get to self-sufficiency by assisting them in times of need.

Ambrosia Felton and Rachelle Thrower are two of the 96 self-reliance specialists (located in Boise, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello) who create the defining experience for those who call Child Support Services in the department’s Division of Welfare. The callers are mostly moms and dads who are either receiving support or providing support for their children. Sometimes the callers are employers or caseworkers.

Ambrosia and Rachelle are the first point of contact for parents who need help navigating the child support collection system. Child support is based on the idea that both parents are financially responsible for their children, and Child Support Services helps parents either pay or collect child support payments. In 2018, Child Support Services administered 147,518 cases and collected and distributed more than $205.8 million to Idaho families. Continue reading “A day in the lives of DHW self-reliance specialists for Child Support Services”