Policy Resource

Iowa Employs Pre-Removal Conferences to Engage Parents in the Child Welfare System Early

Feb 9, 2016

Iowa is using Pre-Removal Conferences (PRCs) to engage families involved with child welfare, as well as their support systems, before a child is removed from his/her home.

Iowa is using Pre-Removal Conferences (PRCs) to engage families involved with child welfare, as well as their support systems, before a child is removed from his/her home. The state is making the move to better support families throughout the process of a removing a child from the home.

PRCs are convened when the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) makes the assessment that a child must be removed. They bring child welfare workers together with the family, informal supports such as family members, formal supports such as medical providers or child care providers, a Parent Partner, and a trained facilitator. During a Pre-Removal Conference, all present discuss how the removal and subsequent placement will occur and set up supports designed to meet the preliminary safety, mental, physical, and educational needs of the children. The meetings are strengths-based and child-focused; they center on whether a relative can care for the children and, if so, what supports they need. In addition, arrangements are made for family interactions, evaluations are recommended, transportation assistance is offered, and immunization/medical records are exchanged.

This practice began in October 2006 as a partnership between the Iowa Department of Human Services and the Polk County Attorney’s Office along with ZERO TO THREE’s Safe Babies Court Team. Its merit was quickly noted, with workers across the Department requesting PRCs in all cases in Polk County by January 2007. In three months, family conference participation went from almost no families to almost all families. Currently, the practice has been implemented in a 15-county service area. While the practice isn’t yet statewide, work groups around the state are developing to make it a universal practice.

Through this process, a plan is created for a less traumatic removal for all parties involved. Children now experience less traumatic removals, are put in more appropriate placements, and have safe places for visiting with their parents. Parents are enlisted as partners in a way that honors their expertise in knowing what is best for their children and are given the opportunity to start working toward reunification before they enter the courtroom. Agency staff have more timely and complete information. Courts also benefit from PRCs, with more court time available for contested issues and expedited permanency due to the front-loading of services.

To read an article on Iowa’s Pre-Removal Conferences approach, visit here.

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