Capitol Daily Memo: DCFS working to provide more in-home services, send fewer kids to foster care

A few days ago, we highlighted an audit of the state’s Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) performed by Utah’s Office of the Legislative Auditor General. During today’s Judiciary Interim Committee meeting, DCFS reported on the progress it has made after receiving the audit in January of 2011.

The good news for Utahns is that all parties involved agree on this major point: children are almost always better off when the help they receive happens in the home. Studies consistently show that allowing children to stay in the home while improving that home environment leads to healthier, safer and happier children. 

DCFS reported today that during the past year they have reversed Utah’s trend of sending more kids to foster care and using fewer in-home services. Now, use of foster care is falling while in-home services are rising. Not only is that better for children, it’s better for Utah taxpayers. According to testimony from Maria Stahla, audit supervisor for the Office of Legislative Auditor, the average foster care case costs the state $46,000 annually, while the average in-home case runs $1,700.

Palmer DePaulis, executive director of the Department of Human Services, which oversees DCFS, said 96 percent of Utah’s 877,812 children have no reported child-abuse allegations or other in-home problems. The remaining four percent of children are involved in reported cases, but the allegations made are only supported for one percent of Utah’s children. A low number, to be sure, but as DePaulis said, even one child in an unsafe home is a tragedy.

Thankfully, DCFS is taking steps to ensure children and families who do need help will most often receive that help in their home to strengthen those families and keep them together. Only when warranted will children be removed from dangerous and unhealthy family environments.

Click here to listen to the entire Judiciary Interim Committee meeting.