Department of Human Services

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds' appointee to head the Iowa Department of Human Services today painted a bleak picture of morale among Iowa's child protection workers, citing high caseloads and recent high-profile child abuse deaths.   

Director Jerry Foxhoven told the Iowa Council on Human Services that he's been visiting with social workers individually and in groups to assess the needs on the front lines.   

He says some workers have not met personally with the top DHS official since the days of the Tom Vilsack administration.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds threw her support behind her appointee to head the Iowa Department of Human Services following complaints about the State Training School for Boys at Eldora.   

An organization known as Disability Rights Iowa released a report criticizing the use of seclusion rooms and restraints on boys referred to the facility by juvenile courts, sometimes for serious crimes.   

Reynolds says DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven is the right person to review the complaint.

chuck palmer
Office of the Governor

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Charles (Chuck) Palmer announced Wednesday he will retire June 16.

His retirement comes as the House and Senate Government Oversight Committees prepare to investigate the department. DHS and its handling of child abuse complaints has been drawing increased scrutiny after two teen girls died. They were adopted out of the state foster care system and were severely malnourished.

A group of mostly Democratic state lawmakers met with the head of Iowa’s Division of Adult, Child and Family Services Monday, and asked if a lack of social workers contributed to the starvation death of a West Des Moines teen in October. 

"The social workers are telling us that we should be protecting kids, we’re not because we’re over worked. 'Our staff load is too high. We’ve doubled our overtime in the last year,'" says State Senator Matt McCoy of Polk County. "Are we leaving vulnerable children out to fend for themselves when we don’t have adequate staffing?"

John Pemble / IPR

A bill to cut tens of millions of dollars in spending to balance this year’s state budget is making its way through the Iowa House and Senate, and a top Democratic budget-writer is  criticizing one proposal they say will harm poor families who are already in tough circumstances.   

The bill negotiated by majority Republicans in the House, Senate, and governor’s office would cut lodging support for families who have to spend time in Iowa City while getting health care.  

Mandie/flickr

Women who use legal drugs such as alcohol during pregnancy could be reported for possible child abuse under proposed legislation state lawmakers may be considering in January.   

Currently, mandatory reporters of child abuse must speak up if it appears an infant is born with exposure to illegal drugs. 

However, mandatory reporting does not kick in if the baby is showing signs of withdrawal from other substances.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A workgroup studying how to protect drug-endangered children is considering changes in state law to address caregivers involved with illegal and legal drugs.   

The current law was designed to protect kids in homes where methamphetamines were being used, sold, or manufactured.           

Under a proposed bill, a wider variety of controlled substances could lead to a child abuse assessment.     

Janee Harvey with the DHS Child Welfare Bureau says currently cocaine, heroin, or opioids are treated differently from meth.