Caseworkers in Montana’s foster care system are now receiving additional training and consultation on their work with extreme childhood trauma.
Sheila Hogan, director of Department of Public Health and Human Services, says the new education program, which kicked off in February, will allow the state’s child welfare workers to seek advice from health care professionals on some of their most challenging cases.
"I would hope that this would be an investment in our workers, they wouldn’t feel as alone as they may feel in rural areas. As you know, we have workers around the state, and just based on Montana, they may not have access to this professional level of consultation," Hogan says.
The new program is part of the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, a video-based mentoring platform used by the Billings Clinic, which is funding the state’s participation in this program.
The Billings Clinic will work with DPHHS on this program for six months.
"So if this works for us, if it’s a benefit to workers we’ll see what we can do to try to continue (the program)," says Hogan.
Hogan says the hope is that by giving caseworkers more educational resources in monthly talks with psychiatrists, and trauma-informed occupational therapists, it will lower the number of kids in the state’s foster care system.
Montana’s child protection system has been weighed down in recent years by rising caseloads that often burnout caseworkers, leading to high staffing turnover.
There are about 4,000 kids in foster care in Montana. That number increased by more than 400 last year.