DES MOINES, Iowa — The process of reforming the Department of Human Services is underway after the department’s new director has unveiled his first proposal to identify children in abusive situations.
DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven has released a proposal that would require foster parents receiving subsidies from the state to take their child to the doctor at least once a year.
Natalie Finn and Sabrina Ray, the foster children whose deaths sparked the calls to reform the department, were extremely malnourished when they died. Foxhoven says a new proposal would help prevent future deaths.
“Doctors are mandatory reporters, and so are nurses; and as a result of that we’re making a requirement that would make them have the eyes of a mandatory reporter on the child” said Foxhoven.
If those health professionals suspected a child was being abused they would be compelled to report it; and because those children are covered by the states expanded Medicaid policy it would come at no cost to the parents.
“That gives us an opportunity to make sure that there are professional eyes on the child, that there’s kind of a little bit of a safety net there, and frankly in my opinion good parents take their kids to a doctor once a year at minimum anyway” said Foxhoven.
Currently Foxhoven says he’s working to see if he can implement the rule change without having the state legislature change the law.
State Senator Matt McCoy is one of the legislators leading the charge on DHS reform and believes that if the rule had to be put into place by lawmakers, it would happen quickly next session.
“I think there would be strong bipartisan support for parents seeing that their foster child or their adopted child that’s receiving a subsidy go to a doctor and a dentist once a year” said McCoy.
An outspoken critic of former DHS Director Charles Palmer, McCoy says the proposal is a good first step and feels Foxhoven is on the right track
“He will do all he can to protect every Iowa child, I really believe that he’s the kind of guy you can depend on to really get after a problem like this, so I’m looking forward to hearing more of his recommendations as we advance forward in this” said McCoy.
McCoy says if enacted foster parents receiving subsidies would have to show proof their child saw a doctor to continue getting state funds.