Iowa’s Department of Human Services recently came under the microscope with a report that it removes more kids from troubled homes than some other states. D-H-S spokesman Roger Munns says there’s more to the story than that. We’re also “very fast to get ’em back home,” he says. At any given time the number of Iowa children in foster homes, as a percent of all children in the state, is below average compared with the national rate and our neighbors here in the Midwest. Munns points out that when states are compared for how they deal with child abuse, evaluators don’t look at the state numbers the public may try and compare. Nobody’s looking at how many children per thousand are in foster care, or how fast they’re removed from their homes, instead, he says, they look at whether, once the agency responds to a report of child abuse, it’s kept the child safe. Whether there’s any “re-abuse” within a certain time, that kind of thing is more important. The latest federal review contains six database categories. Munns says not a single state passes them all, and Iowa needed to improve its performance in two categories. One’s the “bounce-back” rate, as he describes it — when a child removed from a home goes back there but must be removed again. In some other states the rate looks lower just because they categorize the child’s first six months back home as a visit, not a return, in case it doesn’t work out. And in another category, the state needs to improve the rate of “re-abuse” that happens when the decision’s made NOT to remove a child from a home where abuse has been found going on there. The federal standard is that 93-percent be free from abuse within six months of intervention, and Iowa currently stands at 87-percent in that category.
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