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Utah’s Family-Based Vision for Foster Care Gets National Attention

Brian Grimmett

The Obama Administration is looking at Utah’s family-based approach to foster care as a model for the nation. Officials from Utah’s Department of Human Services were in Washington Friday to share best practices in foster care and child welfare at a White House budget proposal meeting.

Ann Silverberg Williamson is Executive Director of the Utah Department of Human Services. She says Utah has one of the lowest rates in the country of children entering foster care, and that’s in part because of the state’s emphasis on strengthening families.

“We’re lending a Utah voice to the federal government policy makers who have for years invested money in foster care which is a service to children, but it’s outside of their homes. We’re taking the children into government custody. What we know is that it’s in children’s best interest if we can keep the children at home to support them safely there,” Williamson says.

In 2013, Utah received a federal waiver to allow funding previously restricted to caring for children out of their homes to be used to support children and families within their homes. The program is called HomeWorks. To date, over 980 Utah families have worked with case workers and support groups to keep children in their home, school, and communities. Williamson says she’s making the case from Utah’s experience that federal funding for early intervention services is a more effective use of taxpayer dollars.

“It’s exciting that we would not only in Utah be demonstrating that there can be better results when we support children in their home, but also influencing federal policy,” Williamson says.  

Utah is among other waiver “demonstration project” states that will inform Congress as to whether funding for flexibility and home-based casework should receive a permanent budget line item.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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