The Iowa Department of Human Services announced a new program today designed to reduce the number of African American children in the state’s child welfare system. D-H-S Director Keven Concannon says the disparity of minority children in Iowa’s system is troubling and worrisome. He says not only in Iowa, but nationally there is an overrepresentation of minority children who end up in the child welfare system. He says while they can’t solve the national problem, they’re trying to make a change in Iowa. The D-H-S is launching a nine-month pilot project to beef up services to African American families. The Department is providing 75-thousand dollars to local support agencies in both Des Moines and Sioux City so they can reach out to families were one case of abuse has been found, and where other children may be at risk.) He says African American children make up about three percent of the population in Iowa, but they’re about 14-percent of the children in the child welfare system. Concannon says there are things that lead to children coming to the attention of the D-H-S. He says poverty is one of the major factors, as is domestic violence, substance abuse and limited parenting skills can be another. Vernon Johnson is the director of the Pace Juvenile Center in Des Moines and says it’s important to treat the entire family. Johnson says local agencies can do a better job than the state at providing culturally sensitive social workers. He says it is their contention that the services being offered will be offered by people who absolutely will reflect their race, color and their capacity to assist them through family crisis to social strength. Vernon says D-H-S will evaluate the project’s success after nine months based on several factors.He says they’ll evaluate how well the young people are doing in school, how well are they doing in the community, have they come to the attention of the courts for some act, and complying with the day-to-day expectation of the mother or father. Concannon says if the goals are met, the pilot project may be expanded to other areas of the state with large minority populations — like Waterloo and Davenport.
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