Caseworkers say staff shortages plague Oregon foster care

Dozens of caseworkers rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday for full funding of Oregon's foster care system, saying a severe staffing shortage has left employees has caused high burnout and turnover among current employees.

Posted: Apr 30, 2019 5:20 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Dozens of caseworkers rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday for full funding of Oregon's foster care system, saying a severe staffing shortage has left employees has caused high burnout and turnover among current employees.

"Our current caseloads are more than double and sometimes approaching triple of what they should be," said Rosanne Scott, a caseworker from Portland. "This is way more work than one person can manage, and it means they're not able to do all the things our kids need us to do for them."

The Department of Human Services, which oversees the state's foster care system, has struggled for years to recruit and retain caseworkers, who work to find adequate foster homes for each of the 7,500 children in state care.

The Service Employee International Union Local 503, which represents public sector workers, said an additional $80 million is needed to properly address problems in recruiting and retaining caseworkers.

And, although Gov. Kate Brown requested an additional $14.5 million last summer to add nearly 200 workers, caseworkers say they need more funds to meet staffing needs.

In a February update to the governor, DHS said that it would need to hire over a thousand child welfare workers and support staff in order to bring down worker caseload levels to the national average. The department is particularly struggling with a shortage of permanency workers, who are supposed to evaluate potential homes for children based on their individual needs.


CLICK HERE for Governor Brown's response to recent problems found within the state's foster care system.


According to the national standard, permanency workers should have a workload of 11 cases. The department found it had 36% of staffing levels needed to achieve that rate and would need an additional 900 full time workers to bring individual caseload levels down.

"Our caseworkers are overwhelmed and are not able to engage with our children and families to understand their culture, assess their strengths and find the root cause of why the family is struggling," the report said.

The department's also been slow to fill vacancies, and the most recent update to the governor shows that only 8% of 300 available positions have been filled. At least 220 people are currently in the hiring process, and 73 positions remain vacant.

Caseworkers say DHS needs to do more to retain the staff it already has, as high workloads and a lack of proper training have caused high turnover rates. A 2018 secretary of state audit found worker burnout caused a 23% turnover rate among staff in 2016, and caseworkers say that often people leave the profession within two years.

Scott, who has been a caseworker for 18 years, said recently the turnover rate has been the highest she's ever experienced. She said she's personally taken over the cases of 19 kids after their caseworkers left their jobs. That's in addition to her current caseload.

She said it's not only hard on the kids but also on the caseworkers themselves, who often feel demoralized and as though they can't truly help children in need.

"It's really sad to lose people who could contribute so much to the system because of a dangerously crushing workload that makes you feel like you're totally inadequate and you can never be enough," she said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314841

Reported Deaths: 3624
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah51325643
Washington35086277
Marion32748396
Clackamas26680275
Lane24145248
Jackson21050257
Deschutes16703103
Umatilla12736125
Douglas10795188
Linn1051487
Josephine8685169
Yamhill752099
Klamath651892
Polk629171
Malheur485567
Benton463728
Coos420669
Columbia325439
Jefferson315347
Lincoln277930
Union274838
Wasco242339
Crook213639
Clatsop213225
Tillamook182023
Baker176123
Morrow168621
Curry167817
Hood River163435
Harney82319
Grant7848
Lake6988
Wallowa50811
Gilliam1374
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4651497

Reported Deaths: 68087
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles144634825870
Riverside3583834802
San Diego3502674021
San Bernardino3475745507
Orange3150815355
Sacramento1507202105
Santa Clara1407321841
Kern1362881521
Fresno1361631889
Alameda1164051330
Ventura978991120
San Joaquin975341615
Contra Costa95858924
Stanislaus808921235
Tulare73111896
San Mateo52311607
San Francisco52008605
Monterey49485565
Solano44247312
Santa Barbara43189500
Sonoma39476378
Merced39446536
Placer36612364
Imperial34285755
Kings30179285
San Luis Obispo28351313
Madera21749263
Butte21379231
Shasta20763279
Santa Cruz20176211
Yolo19192239
Marin17127242
El Dorado16037127
Sutter13122153
Napa1228795
Yuba928061
Nevada850185
Humboldt831988
Tehama827784
San Benito709567
Mendocino691176
Lassen637927
Tuolumne616993
Lake605887
Amador493059
Glenn399030
Siskiyou391541
Calaveras342766
Del Norte339034
Colusa291018
Inyo166739
Mono14935
Plumas12406
Mariposa100712
Trinity72610
Modoc6278
Unassigned2120
Sierra1980
Alpine1000
Out of CA00
Medford
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 64°
Brookings
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 66°
Crater Lake
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 64°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 64°
Klamath Falls
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 63°
Cooler afternoon temperatures and thin haze return on the first day of fall
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events