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Treasure Valley professionals explain the child welfare process

KTVB spoke with a nurse practitioner who said in his 16 years of working in healthcare, he has filed a report to Child Protective Services (CPS) twice.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho receives nearly 23,000 calls a year of suspected child abuse, neglect or abandonment, according to The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW).

“It's frankly kind of bizarre to see that all of these people are claiming that health care workers and CPS workers are trying to steal children and separate families and that's frankly not true,” nurse practitioner and owner of Table Rock Mobile Medicine, Bradley Bigford said.

After witnessing what happened at St. Luke's in Boise on Tuesday, Bigford posted on Twitter about his own personal experience with Child Protective Services (CPS). 

From a healthcare perspective, Bigford said CPS exists to help children and families. As health professionals, it is their responsibility -- as well as any Idahoans responsibility -- to report if a child is in danger. 

RELATED: Lockdown lifted at St. Luke's Boise after protestors gather over baby's 'medical kidnapping'

“It's challenging, because people come to you and they have a concern and they trust you and when you have a situation where maybe you're suspecting or even just questioning the circumstances around the visit, you're legally obligated to report that," Bigford said. "If you don't and it comes out that the child was in danger and you didn't do anything, well then that's on your license."

At the same time, Bigford said when someone files a report -- like he has done in the past -- parents are not happy. The parents came to Bigford and other healthcare professionals due to trust and are then turned over to a government agency. Sometimes the report leads to a loss of business, negative reviews and in some cases, harassment, according to Bigford.

KTVB reached out to dozens of daycares to find out what training protocols are in place when it comes to this subject. Many were unavailable to talk Wednesday, but Fantasyland Daycare told KTVB their staff undergoes training to know what signs to look out for when it comes to child abuse or neglect.

Nampa School District spokesperson Kathleen Tuck told KTVB they do not have specific training for staff, but they do have annual online training on prevention and awareness. They also encourage staff to work with counselors and the principals if they see something.

As for Bigford, he said in his 16 years of working in healthcare, he has filed a report to CPS twice.

“Healthcare workers are not trying to break up families, that's a lie about what's being spread right now,” Bigford said. ”Healthcare workers truly care about families and child safety. We want to do what's best, we're in this to help people and to know that anyone is required to report abuse and if you don't, you're enabling the behavior.”

If you see something happening, you can report it by calling 208-334-KIDS or 208-334-5437. You can also call 211 or local law enforcement. 

IDHW also sent KTVB the following breakdown of 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 our priority guidelines for assignment.

"If the referral does meet 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 until a shelter hearing in court can be held. That hearing will take place in no less than 24 business hours and 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 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 hope it doesn’t come to that, but it sometimes does, unfortunately."

More information from IDHW's 'Reporting Neglect, Abuse and Abandonment' website can be viewed here.

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