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IDHW asks JFAC for funding to alleviate staffing, foster care family shortages

Posted at 5:29 AM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 12:16:05-05

BOISE, Idaho — As different state departments have presented to the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) with budget requests, staffing shortages have come up day after day.

This week, the Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) presented its budget requests and like other agencies, asked for funding to alleviate staffing shortages.

The IDHW highlighted the need for more child welfare staff and more foster care families.

"The current staffing shortage we are experiencing is causing our caseworkers to be overloaded," Dave Jeppeson, the Director of IDHW said. "Currently Idaho pays among the lowest--in fact the lowest--stipends for foster care among any state anywhere around us in the west."

Here's how IDHW plans to fix this. The department is requesting $6.1 Million.

This would go towards bonuses and a seven percent raise for certain staff and an increase to the stipend rate for foster care families.

While this is a need across the state, IDHW said the situation is dire in the Treasure Valley.

"We haven't had to go to short-term rentals in the rest of the state, but it's a challenge," Jeppeson said.

In the Treasure Valley, the department has had to place foster kids in short-term rentals or hotels because of the lack of foster families.

"When that child comes to the department we'll have around the state situations where it'll take us 24 hours to find someplace to place or more. And when that happens sometimes that child is sitting in our office overnight with staff until we find someplace for them to go," Jeppeson said.

The department is also asking for funding for 24 additional caseworker and child welfare safety assessor positions.

"I think we're going to be really challenged to fill all those in the short term, but I'd rather have the number that we need so as we dig our way out of this hiring problem we can actually get to the level where we can properly serve the kids in the foster care system," Jeppeson said.