Statement: Let’s keep our eyes on the prize amidst DHS turmoil

Center Focus

Statement: Let’s keep our eyes on the prize amidst DHS turmoil


We can’t find much good news in the sudden departure of director Jerry Foxhoven from the Iowa Department of Human Services this week, especially coming in tandem with the departure of the department’s deputy director and on top of other staff shuffles and retirements.

But the drama of what happened and who did what (practically requiring Cold War-style Kremlinology) must stay secondary to making sure Iowa kids and families get the services they need. 

This is a critical moment for several department initiatives that are now at greater risk of falling behind or rolling out badly:

  • The July 1 entry of the managed care company Centene (doing business locally as Iowa Total Care) and departure of United HealthCare from Iowa’s Medicaid program, which covers more than 600,000 low-income children and adults, individuals with disabilities and seniors in nursing care. 
  • Rollout of a children’s mental health system for which lawmakers laid out a policy framework this past legislative session but attached almost no funding.
  • Planning for Iowa’s implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act — the largest federal child welfare reform in history — which has the promise of bringing a more child- and family-centered approach to Iowa’s foster care system, but will require thoughtful attention.  

That’s not to mention potential neglect of DHS’s other under-resourced work. Each day the state’s largest department helps low-income working families afford child care, provides cash assistance to stabilize the lives of very low-income families, administers food assistance so no Iowan goes hungry and provides prevention and emergency services to vulnerable children and adults.

We hope Governor Reynolds will move quickly — and smartly — to right the ship and keep it sailing. The course should be guided by the North Star of meeting needs of the Iowa’s children and their families.

06/18/2019 1:28 PM |Add a comment
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