• This Bright Spot has been reviewed and approved by our community of impacted parents.

Parent reviewer feedback summary

  • Parent reviewers recommend judges adopt the four questions outlined here, with an emphasis on identifying family support and removing the danger rather than removing the child.
  • Parent reviewers emphasized creating a confidential, non-judgmental atmosphere and prioritizing family needs. To be even more effective, reviewers suggested offering concrete resources to birth and/or kin families.
  • Parent reviewers also signaled concerns about its effectiveness, given persistent system and worker bias toward removal.

What is the intervention?

Seven judges in Iowa participated in a four-month pilot project in partnership with the Iowa Department of Human Services and Iowa Children’s Justice (a division of the state judicial branch). The goal was to reduce the number of child removals by addressing safety concerns in ways that keep more kids and their families together, addressing the presenting safety risk using approaches that remove the risk rather than remove the child.  

  1. What can we do to remove the danger instead of the child?
  2. Can someone the child or family knows move into the home to remove the danger?
  3. Can the caregiver and child go live with a relative or fictive kin?
  4. Could the child move temporarily to live with another relative or fictive kin?

What makes it a Bright Spot?

As reported in the June 2020 issue of The Iowa Lawyer, over a four-month pilot, the judges received 83 requests for removal and granted just 44 of them. Of the 44 approvals, 24 of the children or sibling groups were placed with family members, and 5 with friends, leaving 15 children/sibling groups placed with foster families with whom they had no previous relationship. This compares to 99 removals in the four months preceding the pilot. During the four-month pilot, removals reduced by 55% compared to the previous four months. 

What steps can you take?

  • Share this article with a trusted judge in your area who prioritizes family connections. Suggest a pilot project be initiated in your jurisdiction or region.  
  • Share this article with your team of social workers. Integrate these questions into your practice to promote safe alternatives to separating families. Be sure to share with the judge the steps you have taken to reduce the risk of harm to the child in ways that avoid removal.


These materials may provide additional context and information about this family-approved resource for systems change.

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