Utah’s low rates of children entering foster care, despite having the highest number of children per capita, is leading lawmakers to ask how to replicate Utah’s success through the rest of the country.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, convened a hearing of the Finance Committee today titled “A Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care.” Senator Hatch highlighted Utah’s success and invited Ann Silverberg Williamson, the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Human Services to testify and share some of Utah’s successes.
“Currently, the federal government devotes the highest proportion of its federal foster care funding to the least desirable outcome for vulnerable families: removal of a child from his or her home and placing them in stranger care or in a foster care group home,” Hatch said.
In his opening remarks, Hatch praised a Utah model called “HomeWorks,” an early intervention program which uses evidence-based strategies to maintain families and reduce the need for foster care. The program uses federal funding to provide in-home services that aid parents and at-risk children by involving extended family and skilled counselors and therapists for a long-term fix, instead of a temporary fix in the foster system.
Hatch said, “Some states, like Utah, for example, believe that they can reduce the need for foster care if they use certain federal funds to provide front- and back-end services to families. Today we will hear from an official from my state of Utah on how this flexibility has improved outcomes for children and families, reducing the reliance on foster care. I believe we should extrapolate from Utah’s innovative HomeWorks initiative as a model for all states.”
In Ms. Williamson’s testimony, she touted HomeWork’s success. “For the average cost of serving one child in a foster care home for one year, we are able to serve eleven families through HomeWorks practice and supports. For the average cost of serving one foster care child in a residential group setting for one year, we are able to serve thirty-four families through HomeWorks.” Williamson added, “Rather than providing a temporary fix, we work with families to achieve long-term behavioral change that reduces risk of repeat maltreatment and ongoing involvement with government interventions.”