Polk County Decategorization

History and Legislation   

Decategorization was created through legislation enacted by the Iowa General Assembly in 1987.  The legislation was initially authorized for the participation of two counties.  Polk County and Scott County were selected to be the pilot projects and both started in 1988. 

The goals of the 1987 legislation were to: 1) enhance the array of services available to clients to better meet their needs; 2) overcome some of the problems and barriers to serving clients which traditional categorical funding streams present; and 3) accomplish major system changes without spending more than would have been spent in the former categorical system.

The decategorization initiative was developed in response to:

  • The growing number of children going into foster care.
  • The need to increase emphasis on early intervention and prevention services.
  • Community values which support the reality that most families, even dysfunctional ones, do a better job of raising children than the government.
  • The recognition that local jurisdictions are much more in touch with the needs of their children and families, and have the capability to respond more quickly and appropriately than the state bureaucracy.

Decategorization was designed to be a process that combines the individual state appropriations for child welfare services into a single fund to encourage the development of services that better meet the needs of youth and families by allowing the local county flexibility in how these funds are used.  Participation by the Department of Human Services, Juvenile Court Services, and the County are required terms of the legislation.

Decategorization is an effort to significantly change the current child welfare system to one that is needs-based, family focused, easily accessible, more intensive, less restrictive, and cost effective.

Decategorization projects are organized by county or clusters of counties.  Today there are 39 decategorization projects across the state of Iowa, covering every county except one.

During the 2005 session, HF 616, titled “An Act Revising Requirements Applicable to County and Multi-county Decategorization of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Funding Projects” was passed by the General Assembly, and was signed by the Governor on May 3, 2005.

Interagency planning and coordination has been one of the most positive effects of decategorization in Polk County.  The Polk County Decategorization Project has been able to maintain the commitment and active involvement of a wide array of individuals and organizations in the community.  One of the strengths of the project has been the cooperation at the administrative level that has allowed and encouraged collaborative planning at other levels.  Communication has increased between administrators and staff, between organizations, and between systems.

Over-all accomplishments of decategorization in Polk County include the following:

  • Provided an incentive for stakeholders in the community to work together.
  • Brought together local players across systems and served as a single focal point to plan for local service delivery.
  • Developed a cooperative community planning network.
  • Provided an opportunity for a responsive and pro-active approach to plan and design programming to best meet the needs of children and families.
  • Increased communication across systems.
  • Allowed opportunities for and developed a process to focus and invest in prevention programs.
  • Provided a mechanism for a more efficient delivery of child welfare services.
  • Increased information and data available regarding effectiveness of specific services.
  • Established flexibility to develop individualized program plans for youth and families.
  • Provided an incentive for case workers to think creatively in their approach to meeting the unique needs of children and their families.
  • Provided more opportunities for families to be involved in planning and creating services to best meet children’s and family’s needs.
  • Improved client tracking and monitoring systems.


Annual Reports

Each year, Decat creates an Annual Service Plan for submission to the State of Iowa by October 1. Additionally, a progress report on each preceding fiscal year is due by December 1. 

The annual plan for FY24 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY24

The annual plan for FY23 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY23

The annual plan for FY22 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY22

The annual plan for FY21 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY21

The annual plan for FY20 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY20

The annual plan for FY19 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY19

The annual plan for FY18 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY18

The annual plan for FY17 can be downloaded here: Annual Service Plan, FY17

The progress report and the addendum can be downloaded here: Progress Report, FY15 Progress Report, FY16  Progress Report, FY17 Progress Report, FY18 Progress Report, FY19 Progress Report, FY20 Progress Report, FY21 Progress Report, FY22 Progress Report, FY23