SALT LAKE CITY — The White House is recognizing Utah’s foster care program as one of the best in the country.
Utah is one of just four states invited to present at the president’s fiscal year 2016 Prevention for Candidates budget proposal meeting on Friday. Utah’s Department of Human Services employs the family-based HomeWorks program to keep kids out of the foster system by empowering and educating at-risk parents and children.
“Evidence indicates that children are stronger and have a longer societal success rate when they can safely remain in their family unit, school and community,” said DHS executive director Ann Silverberg Williamson, who is set to present on the HomeWorks program at Friday’s meeting.
Developed in 2013, HomeWorks aims to keep families together through early intervention, according to Williamson. It utilizes evidence-based tools to effectively assess potential risks to children, how well a family is functioning as a unit and how to best meet the needs of both parent and child.
Evidence indicates that children are stronger and have a longer societal success rate when they can safely remain in their family unit, school and community.
–Ann Silverberg Williamson
In addition, HomeWorks provides families with services and tools that allow them to function successfully, including substance abuse treatment, relapse prevention, mental health therapy and financial support with housing and other basic essentials, according to DHS.
The HomeWorks program was funded through a federal waiver that allowed the state to use money to support children and families in their homes. Those funds were previously restricted to children living out of their homes in foster care.
Since its inception, the program has served more than 890 Utah families by allowing children to stay in their homes with monitoring and support.
Consistently ranking among the states with the fewest children entering the foster care system, Utah also claims the highest percentage of youths per capita.
In 2014, there were 4,638 children in Utah’s foster care system, according to DCFS’s annual report. The majority of those children were between the ages of 0 and 5.
Eighty-nine percent of these children who spent less than a year in foster care had fewer than two placements, and the majority of placements were family based, according to the report.
This is the first time Utah has been recognized by the White House for its child welfare services.