Idaho’s foster care system struggles under a deepening shortage of foster parents and high caseloads for social workers, according to a performance review released Monday.
The review by the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations cited an 8 percent decline in the number of licensed foster parents from 2014 to 2016, from 1,062 to 974, and caseloads that were one-third or more higher than they should be.
“What is unquestioned is there is a workload problem,” Amanda Bartlett, one of OPE’s evaluators, told the Legislature’s joint oversight committee Monday.
The office recommended creation of a broad oversight entity to address performance gaps.
“A legislative standing committee is one option that states have used to establish this oversight with ongoing accountability, visibility, and accessibility,” OPE Director Rakesh Mohan wrote in his message to the committee accompanying the report.
In fiscal 2015, Child and Family Services, which operates under the state the Department of Health and Welfare, responded to approximately 8,600 child protection referrals and managed the cases of some 2,500 children and youth.
Health & Welfare Director Richard Armstrong told lawmakers Monday that improving staffing levels was the key to addressing the report’s other findings.
“It’s clear to me that we have to do something about the basic resources within the department,” Armstrong said. “We’ll take this seriously and move forward with our budget recommendations.”
The committee voted to have OPE conduct a follow-up of the report by next year.