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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.

Confirmed Cases: 10395

Reported Deaths: 215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah252969
Marion166148
Washington162020
Clackamas86125
Umatilla7726
Union3561
Lincoln3464
Lane2283
Deschutes2210
Malheur2161
Polk16012
Linn1579
Jackson1520
Yamhill1398
Jefferson1340
Klamath1301
Morrow1071
Benton955
Hood River940
Wasco941
Josephine561
Clatsop540
Douglas510
Columbia420
Coos420
Lake210
Tillamook150
Crook130
Wallowa100
Curry80
Baker50
Sherman30
Gilliam10
Grant10
Harney10
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 271035

Reported Deaths: 6441
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1165703534
Riverside20555486
Orange17882366
San Diego16726387
San Bernardino15345269
Imperial7190117
Alameda6855140
Fresno611077
Santa Clara5408164
Kern536982
Tulare5009136
San Joaquin447455
Sacramento423669
San Francisco399250
Contra Costa387885
Ventura378950
San Mateo3599108
Santa Barbara326129
Marin280921
Kings267333
Stanislaus266045
Monterey215115
Solano147625
Sonoma135911
Merced127211
Placer91111
San Luis Obispo7652
Yolo67726
Madera5785
Santa Cruz4593
Napa4364
San Benito2732
Sutter2523
Lassen2420
El Dorado2260
Butte2063
Shasta1544
Humboldt1444
Nevada1291
Yuba1282
Glenn1220
Lake961
Tehama881
Mendocino850
Colusa700
Del Norte581
Calaveras530
Mono471
Tuolumne430
Amador330
Inyo331
Siskiyou320
Mariposa311
Plumas110
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
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