Idahoans with experience in the foster care system urged Idaho lawmakers Friday to consider a bill that would stress the role of foster parents and judges in deciding the fate of children who are removed from their birth parents and placed into the care of the state.
Several foster parents gave tearful accounts to members of the House and Senate Health and Welfare committees of trying to adopt foster children. The children were placed elsewhere by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, they said.
In response to news coverage and social-media campaigns for foster-care reform, the department has issued a public statement. saying that in order to improve the system, “we need the voices of everyone building consensus,” including families, current and former foster youth, schools, the justice system, guardians ad litem and social workers.
“We are all focused on the same goal for these children — to protect them, preserve their families and nurture them through crisis to successful adulthood and beyond,” the statement said. “We know that our foster parents, social workers, lawmakers, courts, schools and guardians ad litem are dedicated to that mission. They have helped build Idaho’s child welfare system into one of the top performing systems in the nation. But we know it’s not a perfect system, and we want to continually improve it.”
One former foster mother told the committee members that she and her husband wanted to adopt one of two half-sisters they were fostering, with the support of the department. But “all of a sudden, we received a call saying the social worker would pick up the girls,” she said. The girl was placed in several different homes after that, ending up as a Wednesday’s Child twice, she said.
After almost a year and a half of bonding with these children, working with multiple therapists and counselors ... the department decided to move them to a different home.
Jodi Fulford of Boise, testifying before lawmakers Friday
“I did everything they asked me to do,” said Christie Stephenson, whose two foster children were removed from her care while she was in the process of moving the family from Idaho to Utah. The reason she was given, she told the committee members, was that she “had an unnatural attachment with these kids.”
Rep. Fred Wood, who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, said at the conclusion of a public hearing Friday that lawmakers heard foster-care testimony “loud and clear” and are working on “a significant piece of legislation.”
Rep. Christy Perry of Canyon County told the Statesman after the hearing that legislators currently are making sure the bill would comply with existing state and federal laws.