From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: The child welfare process explained; observing Social Worker Month

March 18, 2022
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Given an increased interest in the child welfare system, I would like to share a bit of the process and the role of the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW).

First, I need to be clear that specific child welfare cases are confidential, and we cannot release any details about specific cases. We often would like to be able to say more, but that would violate the rights of the families and children who really need support and assistance, not to mention the stigma that might happen if their personal circumstances were made public.

When it comes to child welfare cases, our highest priority is to keep children with their families whenever that can be done safely, or to help the family address safety issues so a child can return home safely. In particular, there is a growing false narrative that parents should be fearful to seek medical care. Nothing could be further from the truth. Parents should always seek medical care and advice when their children are ill and for regular wellness checkups.

As we have shared with the media, in general, below is how the child welfare process works: 

If someone is concerned about the safety of a child, they can call the department by dialing 211, or 855-552-KIDS (5437) or their local law enforcement. Referrals can come from anyone, but they often come from a healthcare worker, teacher, law enforcement, or other Idaho resident who has concerns about a child's safety. (Just a reminder that everyone in Idaho is a mandated reporter if they have information a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect.)

When a referral is received, it is reviewed, and a determination is made if what was called in meets the priority guidelines for assignment. 

If the referral meets the guidelines for assignment, it is prioritized for a safety assessment based on severity. For those where the perceived danger to the child is high, a social worker and possibly law enforcement will visit the family to check on the child very quickly. Based on that visit and in consultation with the social worker and possibly healthcare workers, law enforcement will make the decision about whether to declare that a child is in imminent danger.

If that decision is made, then law enforcement places the child in the temporary custody of the state (DHW) until a shelter care hearing in court can be held. That hearing will take place in no more than 48 business hours. The judge will hear all the evidence from the family, the social worker, law enforcement and others, and possibly review a safety plan if one is agreed to by the family and will issue a decision about whether the child will be released to the family or will remain in the state's custody because safety issues have not been addressed by the family.

If the child goes back to his or her family with a safety plan, a social worker will be assigned to work with the family on a case plan ordered through the court to address the safety issues that led to their child being placed in care. The social worker will meet with the family on a frequency determined through the safety plan put in place to make sure the terms of the safety plan are being followed and the child is safe.

If the child remains in the state's custody, the department will continue to work with the family until the safety concerns are resolved. The Adoption and Safe Families Act allows for parents to have 12 months to resolve the safety issues. If safety issues can’t be resolved and the child can’t be returned safely to the home at that point, then the department can petition the court for termination of parental rights. We always hope it doesn’t come to that, but it sometimes does, unfortunately.

Bullying, harassment tactics are inappropriate

Currently, there are people protesting in or near our downtown location, and we respect the right for people to protest.

Now, I want to talk about something that is happening that is both personal and troubling to me. That is when protestors target specific people, including our employees. Harassing and bullying specific people is inappropriate and wrong.

Legal processes are in place and DHW must follow them. No amount of harassment will allow us to deviate from the established legal process. And those legal processes are there for the benefit of everyone.

Needing services or information?

Due to a spike in calls from those sharing their thoughts or opinions, our phone lines may be busier than usual. If you need services or information, please continue to call, or visit our website at

We want to recognize the hard work and commitment of DHW’s social workers

In observation of March as Social Worker Month, DHW recognizes how our own social workers care about Idahoans, work daily to strengthen Idaho families, and want to make a difference in the lives of Idaho’s most vulnerable residents.

Social workers are focused on helping Idahoans meet their needs with a particular focus on those who are vulnerable or living in poverty. As noted in a 2018 Guardian article, “When social workers are active in a community, it tends to have a positive impact on crime rates, health statistics, school attendance, and employment.”

In thousands of ways, social workers help people of every age and background, all across the state. The most well-known aspect of social work is providing direct services to residents. They also help guide people to critical resources and counsel them on life-changing decisions.

Social workers, even when faced with huge obstacles and criticism, work selflessly and compassionately to keep Idaho’s residents safe and secure. The great work our social workers do despite these obstacles is amazing, and I want to thank and recognize them for their hard work and commitment to Idaho.

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend.


Not buying what you're selling.
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If it was truly your highest priority to keep a child with his parent then you would have allowed a recent mother to go to the hospital with her child. If the mother was also sick, if you really cared, you would have had both of them checked out, the mother and the baby.

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Welfare is for the money not the children, anyone can make up lies and they take your kids. They need stopped

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To the Public:
DO NOT believe the content in this article. The agency that is to protect children and families are actually destroying the lives of these children and breaking family bonds. We must wonder why he mentions the protesting? Because these families civil rights are ripped away and violated with no one to help their pleas.
I was once blinded and didn’t have a 2nd thought on the actions of child welfare services but these individuals who say they protect the innocent are by far that and are only overzealous state workers. Did you know the federal government pays the state government thousands of dollars for every child that is removed from the home? Look it up for yourself because it’s written in the law during the Clinton Administration. Even though Bill was the Commander in Chief, it was his wife who saw this through and made it law. It’s written in the Social Security Act:

Keep an open mind and listen to these families. These parents, grandparents, guardians are fighting to keep their families together. Most times losing the fight and losing their children forever. You can’t imagine the pain.

Steven Wallace
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So, parents are now fearful to seek medical care because of the medical tyranny they've witnessed first hand. Were you just expecting that people would put on their victim faces and accept medical tyranny as normal? Aside from medical tyranny, another very good reason for having limited contact with the medical community is the fact that 250,000-400,000 people are killed ANNUALLY by medical error. Medical error is the THIRD leading cause of death in the U.S. The casualty count for U.S. servicemen, in the Vietnam conflict, was approximately 50,000 personnel over the span of that conflict. Medical error kills over SIX TIMES that many people each and every year. Medical hesitancy could save your life.