"Building a system of care" is the aim of the Department of Child and Family Services in Price. Such system building is taking place not only in Carbon County, but throughout Utah as a whole. The department has helped lead the way in a new program called simply Creative Intervention (CI), which serves as a response to inflexibilities in the foster care system.
"Back in 2006 we were really facing a tough time with kids coming into state custody," said Paul Smith, regional director for the department. "We then piloted a program called Creative Intervention that's focused on keeping kids in their homes and keeping them safe."
The department was, at the time, struggling with a 44 percent employee turnover rate. There has since been an improvement with the introduction of new policies with CI.
"It's brought a lot of excitement and creativity,"said Boni Seals, Community Service Manager.
Currently, CI is in its third year and has saved a substantial amount of money for the department, totaling well over $600,000. Aside from savings, it has been better able to help kids in need, expanding nearly every year. Instead of taking children out of their homes, regardless of the situation, CI is oriented towards working with families to encourage a more positive environment.
"We're not out splitting up families. We want to try and keep them from getting further into the system. It's a system of care; not just the DHFC (Department of Human and Family Services Center), but the whole community is involved-- friends, co-workers etc," said Lisa Branch, System of Care Director.
However, if the situation in a home is harmful, the department will utilize foster care. Thus far, CI has been having a fair amount of success with the new system. The new system not only cuts the human cost, but the financial one as well. In order to keep a kid in foster care, it can cost upwards of $276 per day.
One way that CI has been able to help keep families together is by identifying their positive interests that can be expanded upon so that strengths can be built. Some of these interests might be anything from Boy Scouts to learning how to play the guitar.
"(CI) doesn't look at the kids as one group," said Seals. "Foster care as a whole is bound by lots of paper work and CI lets us do some things differently--like looking at what their issues are and individualizing them."
With such a radical shift in policy, the department has had to overcome some challenges, such as just thinking differently. The new system requires much more involvement from the case worker's perspective, whereas, before, the department found that around 50 percent of case worker time was spent in front of a computer.
Overall the CI's goals are similar to the foster care system, but its new approach has made a clear example of how new thinking can be not only cost effective, but productive.
"A lot of families know what they need, they just don't know how to get it," said Angie McCourt, director at Castle Country Youth.
Statewide, the program has a presence in Carbon, Uintah, Duchesne and Emery Counties.
It also has a site approval to become a statewide institution.