Policies in Iowa

Iowa One Caseworker Model

Iowa’s Department of Human Services (DHS) contracts for foster parent recruitment and retention in each of the state’s five regions. In the most recent contracts, DHA stipulates that the contractors must use the One Caseworker Model, which requires that the same staff person is assigned to work with each resource family through the recruitment and retention process -- from training to licensing and approval, through matching, and on to support and closure. The caseworkers become very familiar with their resource families, which allows them to recommend better placement matches, introduce enhanced child management techniques, tailor the training that the foster parent receives, and provide background knowledge to help the family meet the child's needs. Caseworkers are also charged with knowing the resource families’ ability to work with a child’s birth parents, extended family, and how the family supports a child’s connections to birth family, siblings, culture, and community.

See the playbook and Iowa's diligent recruitment plan for more information.

Data-driven recruitment and retention

Iowa uses performance-based contracts with two private agencies for recruitment, retention, training and support (RRTS). Performance measures are Placement Stability; Recruitment/Retention (overall net increase in families); Recruitment/Retention (increase in non-white families); and Enhanced Foster Homes. The state Department of Human Services provides data to contractors to determine recruitment goals and targets based on the age, race and ethnicity of every child who enters and exits foster care each week. Contractors use a database called CareMatch to match a child with a family, based on the family’s strengths, skills, location and other factors.

See Iowa's diligent recruitment plan for more information.

Pre-Removal Conferences

Iowa has reduced the overall population of children in congregate care by 46 percent, from 29 percent (1,972 children) in 2005 to 18 percent (1,068 children) in 2015. Strategies used to promote family-based care include Iowa’s Pre-Removal Conference, which is a model for meeting with the family prior to removing a child, with the goal of including the family in the removal process. This strengths-based meeting keeps the focus on reducing trauma for the child and is shown to increase relative placements and educational stability. In the event that a relative placement is not available, these meetings still provide parents with a chance to be involved in decision-making, and provides the child protection agency with as much information as possible to identify a foster home that can best meet the child’s needs. In Polk County, an income maintenance worker attends the Pre-Removal Conference to ensure the identified relative caregiver is connected to all eligible benefits before the meeting ends. The family also leaves the meeting with a visitation plan in place so that both the parents and the child know when they will see each other again. This level of engagement and communication has improved the agency’s relationship with the community in general, and has also been embraced by staff, county attorneys, and the judiciary.

To learn more, see the brief, "How can we ensure a child’s first placement is with family?"

Foster Parent and Youth Ambassadors

Some state plans describe involving foster parents and youth as foster care “ambassadors” as a recruitment strategy, including Georgia (community ambassadors), Iowa (foster and adoptive parent ambassadors), Massachusetts (foster and adoptive parent ambassadors who are paid $500 per month for 30 hours of general recruitment activity) and New Jersey (youth ambassadors who share their experiences with foster care to dispel myths about fostering teens).

See state diligent recruitment plans for more information.