The new director of the Iowa Department of Human Services is planning to ensure thousands of adopted children in Iowa visit a doctor at least once a year. The new rule would apply to the adopted children of parents who receive adoption subsides from the state.

Iowa Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven says it would make sure the kids are seen by “professional eyes” who’ve been trained to recognize and report suspected child abuse and neglect.

“It’s hard to imagine that it is not a good idea for a parent to take their kid to the doctor at least once a year anyway,” Foxhoven says. “I mean, it’s part of what parents do. It makes sense and it allows us to make sure that the kids aren’t under the radar.”

Foxhoven’s proposal is part of the agency’s response to the tragic deaths of two teenage girls who were adopted out of foster care. Autopsies revealed both were severely malnourished. Foxhoven is consulting with lawyers to figure out the best way to enforce this new rule. He may be able to add it to the contracts adoptive parents sign with the state.

“I’m certainly supportive of us figuring out a way to make it work,” Foxhoven says, “that if you’re going to get the adoption subsidy, you’re going to take your kid to the doctor at least once a year.”

If it requires a change in state law, Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton predicts legislators will act quickly in 2018, “so that kids that are maybe, possibly, slipping through the cracks right now will possibly be able to see some help.”

Kaufmann is chair of the House Government Oversight Committee. That committee and a similar panel from the state senate met last month to investigate the state’s child welfare system. Kaufmann says the “vast majority” of parents who are getting state adoption subsidies are doing things right and taking their kids in for regular doctor’s check-ups anyway.

“I’ve talked to adopted parents,” Kaufmann says. “My goodness, they can’t believe that isn’t a requirement.”

The state offers taxpayer subsidies to parents who adopt children with special needs, like a disability or behavior issues. Kaufmann says the money helps pay for the additional care or counseling that child may need.

“As far as I’m concerned, any parent that has a problem with proving they’re taking their kid to the doctor once a year probably shouldn’t be adopting kids in the first place,” Kaufmann says.

Foxhoven’s agency already has made a change in the way the paperwork for child abuse investigations is handled. All abuse allegations related to one child or one parent used to be bundled into one long document. Now, each report of abuse that comes in is noted separately.

“It’ll strengthen the view of that worker who’s looking at it when they see there were three reports of abuse, for instance, instead of one with a couple of addendums on it,” Foxhoven says.

Foxhoven took over as DHS director in mid-June.