Iowa’s child welfare system is being closely examined to see how well it meets a new, beefed-up set of federal standards. Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns says this self-assessment has already sparked reviews around the state. He says it’s bound to show that in some areas Iowa exceeds standards, which are impossibly high, and no state will meet every one without a lot of improvement. He says about a third of the states have completed the review process, and not one has scored perfectly — it’s a matter of finding out where you do well and where a state needs to improve. The example Munns gives is when kids are removed from an unsafe home, one standard governs how soon they must be returned, and in that area Iowa will exceed the standard. Munns says some other standards for things like quality and usability of data, will show the state’s deficiencies. The agency’s not fighting the self-assessment process. Munns says “it’s a good idea,” and the state agency supports the review even though it may “show our warts and weaknesses,” because when state child-welfare agencies improve, service to kids improves. IN a year of deep budget cuts, Munns was asked if the assessment will give a rationale to ask for more funding in areas that are deficient. He says they can “work smarter” to do things better, and while more resources would help, the process is not a way to simply ask for more money. Iowa officials have been at work on the self-assessment for months, and will send a draft report to federal officials in February.
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