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Idaho lawmakers begin study of foster care system

LEWISTON – Idaho foster care parents are urging lawmakers to reform the current state system, saying that foster care bureaucracy has caused unnecessary heartache and frustration.

“If there’s anything I can communicate to you today, it’s that there is a gap between policy and practice,” said Brian McCauley, of Eagle, who formed the Idaho Foster Care Reform group. “The system itself isn’t that bad, but the implementation, in my opinion, is a borderline disaster.”

The Lewiston Tribune reported that the Idaho Legislature’s foster care study committee met for the first time on Friday. The panel will meet over the summer and provide recommendations for consideration during the 2017 legislative session.

Parents who testified Friday argued that the state needs better implementation guidelines and should avoid arbitrarily moving children, which can cause emotional harm.

McCauley said he would like to see foster care parents have a greater voice in placement decisions of foster children.

“We’re not focused on the mistakes of the past,” said Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, who is co-chairing the committee. “Nor is this a witch hunt against the (Department of Health and Welfare); an agency is only as good as the policies we create to guide them.”

Idaho on average has roughly 1,300 kids in its foster care system. Most of those children will go on to move back in with their biological family, according to state workers. Others tend to be adopted by foster care families or relatives after 25-30 months.

Michelle Weir, the department’s family and community services program manager, said the state agency has taken steps to improve staff communication and better track “unplanned moves” of kids shifting to a variety of homes.