- How long have you worked in the foster care field and what keeps you going?
I have worked for the Department of Health and Welfare for 30 years. My first three years were at the Juvenile Corrections Center followed by five years working as a Children’s Mental Health Clinician. After that I became involved in the Child Welfare Program through supervising in the Rexburg office, being the Regional Program Specialist, and now as the Program Manager.I didn’t originally set out to work in Child Welfare; however, once I started to work in the program, I realized I loved it for so many reasons. I started out loving the work because I know there were children and families who got better with our help. What keeps me going now is I know how hard our staff work. Despite high workloads and stressful conditions, they keep coming back and doing their best for children in families. I am committed to trying to make things better for them. They are great people, and they deserve everything I’ve got.
2. Why do most children come into care?
Most children come into care because of neglect. Oftentimes the neglect is based on parental substance abuse; however, that is not always the case.
3. What is the average age of a child in care?
The average age is 8 years old.
4. Has the number of children in the state increased or decreased in 2022?
Currently, there are 1,466 children in foster care in the state of Idaho. That is a reduction from this time last year. If you are wondering, there are 210 children in care in Region 7.
5. What is new in Idaho foster care?
There are a lot of new things right now. We have had a substantial increase in foster parent reimbursement which went into effect on April 1. We are working on our Federal Plan for the Family First Safety and Prevention Act. That act will allow us to utilize our federal funding differently to implement evidence-based services to safely care for some children in their homes instead of placing them in foster care. Family First also is providing guidance and structure to our placement of children in congregate care.
6. Recently, Idaho has allowed youth at the age of 18 to sign themselves back into care until their 21st birthday. Can you tell us about this program?
This is exciting! Children who age out of foster care can now continue in foster care after they turn age 18 or sign themselves back in until they turn 21. To qualify for extended foster care they must be either pursuing high school/college/vocational education, employed at least 80 hours per month, or be incapable of doing school or work due to a qualifying medical condition.
7. Does the state try to keep sibling groups together?
Yes, maintaining a sibling bond is so important and we make every effort to safely maintain siblings together in the same foster home. While we cannot always do that, separating siblings is not a decision we make lightly.
8. What is currently the greatest need in Idaho foster care?
Our greatest need right now is foster families who are willing to care for teens, children who have behavioral issues, and sibling groups. We also need families who are willing to provide care for children who want to be in extended foster care.
9. How can people best support the department and foster families? What can they do if they cannot foster?
Answering what we need is difficult because our needs vary depending on many factors. First and foremost, we need more foster families, particularly those who will take in teens, sibling groups, and children with difficult behaviors. For those who cannot foster please see what you might be able to do to help a family who is fostering. This could include something like providing some babysitting so foster parents can go on a date or a listening ear when things get difficult. Each foster family is different so please don’t be afraid to ask them what they need. Additionally, if anyone knows of any great social workers who have a passion for helping children and families, send them my way. We’re hiring!
10. What final thoughts would you like to share?
Idaho has some great foster parents, and I am so appreciative of all they do. Being a foster parent is a tough job. I admire those who choose to take on the challenge. We at the Department couldn’t do it without them.