The latest assessment of the Iowa Department of Human Services shows after the agency investigates allegations of abuse, about one out of every six children suffer more abuse. Department of Human Services administrator Wendy Rickman says the agency has conducted a self-review and found children suffered new abuse 18% of the time after social workers had confirmed the child had been abused in the past.
“You know social work has always been as much an art as a science,” Rickman says. “So to the extent that we now have data to look at, it gives you some good information to react to then.” Rickman says in the past five years the agency has increased monthly visits by social workers significantly, trying to help troubled families work things out before the kids are removed from the home and placed into foster care.
“So we would go out to the house and we would say, ‘We have to do a removal. We want to sit down with you this afternoon and you bring whoever you think is going to be helpful to keep this from being a traumatic experience for your child,” she says. “…That is a huge shift.”
Federal officials arrive next week to survey child welfare cases in Polk, Linn and Webster Counties. The feds review each state’s system of protecting children from abuse. No state, including Iowa, has ever met all the tough federal guidelines for child welfare cases.
The state agency’s review indicates the state has met or exceeded some standards. There are fewer cases of children re-entering foster care than there were in 2003 when the last federal review was conducted and the process of adoption for children who have been removed from abusive homes is much more speedy.