Child Neglect in Keokuk - Systems Mapping and Advocacy through a Legal Lens
College of Law students in the Community Empowerment Law Project worked with Keokuk officials to map the existing system for addressing child neglect in the community, and to create a local advocacy strategy to increase system transparency.
Committed local leaders are working hard to revitalize Keokuk. For example, Keokuk was the final stop on the 2019 RAGBRAI ride, bringing more than 10,000 riders to the city. Also in 2019, the Keokuk Economic Development Corporation and Area Community Foundation provided funding and support to open the nonprofit Keokuk Child Development Center to address the daycare shortage in the city. The Keokuk City School District recently underwent a $14 million renovation and the high school graduation rate, steadily increasing, is at 93%.
While the community is making significant strides toward revitalization, many challenges remain. Lee County has one of the highest child poverty rates in the state, and 28% of children in southeast region live in poverty. Lee County also has one of the highest child neglect rates in the state of Iowa at 25.3 per 1000 children, a sharp increase since the county’s lowest rate in 2014. (For comparison, Osceola County has the lowest neglect rate at 2.9 and Johnson County’s neglect rate is 12.7.) The Department of Human Services (DHS) oversees Child Welfare services and programs throughout Iowa, including the Child Protective Services (CPS) unit, which receives and responded to reports of suspect abuse and neglect, Community Care prevention services, and Crisis Intervention, Stabilization and Reunification services, which provides temporary interventions.
The Community Empowerment Law Program's Keokuk Team worked within the community of Keokuk to address the issue of childhood abuse and neglect. By better understanding the trajectory of an abuse/neglect report and the agencies involved, the Team aimed to increase transparency and information sharing across agencies, identify best practices, and recommend practical interventions to improve the child welfare system.