December 19, 2014

D.H.S. focus on Linn County leads to drop in children removed from homes for abuse

The Iowa Department of Human Services says the number of children temporarily removed from Linn County homes as the result of abuse or neglect dropped sharply last year, particularly African American children. The numbers showed more African American children were being removed from homes across the state and D.H.S. decided to focus on Linn County to try and change that.

D.H.S. manager, Marc Baty, says families can avoid losing their kids if they’re given help and services sooner.“Situations that bring families to an allegation of child abuse or neglect, often times has to do with: their car breaks down, they lose their house, they can’t pay their utilities. So I think we’re doing a better job working together to identify, what’s the real reason that we’re concerned about the risk to the child?,” he explains.

Baty says it’s always a delicate balance between making sure a child is safe, and keeping a family together. Overall child removals are down by 30% in Linn County. Linn County direct care worker Shanell Young, says their effort to get families help before a removal becomes necessary is working.

“If you go into the school, and you notice that the child is wearing too small shoes every day, how can I get you those outside resources that will help you get the funding that you need to get the tennis shoes, or to get more food in the home when the child continues to come to school every day and say they’re hungry?,” Young says.

“That sort of thing — deal with it on a preventative basis, more on a voluntary basis, as opposed to when the court says you have to do this service.” D.H.S. information showed 47 African American children in Linn County were temporarily removed from their homes as the result of abuse or neglect in the fiscal year that ended in June.

That compares to 75 the year before, and 76 and 105 in the two years before that. A total of 168 Caucasian children were temporarily removed in fiscal year 2011 compared to 194, 143, and 204 in the three most recent years. D.H.S. says while the number of removals dropped there have not been more instances of re-abuse.