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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: 191405

Reported Deaths: 2530
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah37970584
Washington25360229
Marion21814306
Clackamas17186209
Lane12838145
Jackson10733135
Deschutes870374
Umatilla814084
Linn482867
Yamhill442275
Klamath433061
Polk371052
Malheur350461
Josephine330868
Douglas322570
Benton303919
Jefferson217034
Coos204933
Columbia171526
Union144423
Lincoln137120
Wasco137028
Hood River118130
Morrow110115
Crook107320
Clatsop9728
Baker94614
Curry6459
Tillamook6403
Grant5065
Lake4447
Harney3388
Wallowa1825
Gilliam621
Sherman581
Wheeler281
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3758137

Reported Deaths: 62314
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123565124022
Riverside2990644587
San Bernardino2965964707
San Diego2779493725
Orange2707445008
Santa Clara1189012085
Kern1090311373
Sacramento1042081672
Fresno1016761684
Alameda876331545
Ventura808421011
San Joaquin730091391
Contra Costa68582803
Stanislaus619161055
Tulare49554839
Monterey43563382
San Mateo41871568
San Francisco36642543
Santa Barbara34317456
Solano32752249
Merced31743458
Sonoma29984318
Imperial28373721
Kings22971246
Placer22550290
San Luis Obispo21282260
Madera16442242
Santa Cruz16188206
Marin14037228
Yolo13894209
Shasta12071226
Butte11962199
El Dorado10111113
Napa985381
Sutter9413111
Yuba622146
San Benito604863
Lassen569824
Tehama556362
Nevada471675
Tuolumne412364
Mendocino406149
Humboldt393939
Amador365247
Lake347043
Glenn238225
Colusa223016
Siskiyou218123
Calaveras212153
Inyo142638
Del Norte13678
Mono12804
Plumas7066
Modoc4954
Mariposa4457
Trinity3995
Sierra1120
Alpine880
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