SALEM, Ore. — Oregon has chosen a new director to helm the state's troubled foster care system, the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced in a statement on Wednesday. Rebecca Jones Gaston will replace former director of Child Welfare, Marilyn Jones, who was forced to retire at the end of June.
“Rebecca has extensive experience in child welfare systems across the country and, as part of that work, she has encountered many of the same challenges we face in Oregon,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, DHS Director. “I am so pleased she is coming on board, and I am confident she is the right person to continue to transform our Child Welfare system into one focused on prevention, safety and improving outcomes for children and families.”
Jones Gaston currently serves as executive director for Maryland's Social Services Administration, overseeing programs meant to protect vulnerable children and adults from abuse and neglect. She will start at her new position in Oregon on November 4.
According to DHS, Jones Gaston has been a social worker, advocate, therapist, consultant or administrator in the human services field for more than 22 years.
Jones Gaston previously served as director for Casey Family Programs, an organization that provided technical assistance to child welfare agencies throughout the United States. Between 2003 and 2007, she served as the National Campaign Director for AdoptUsKids, a major campaign aimed at increasing the numbers of foster and adoptive families developed in collaboration with the National Ad Council and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau.
Since joining Maryland's Department of Human Services, DHS said that Jones Gaston successfully created new programs to help the department better support vulnerable populations, "with a focus on collaboration and diversity and support for staff during the change process."
“I look forward to leading implementation of the many changes already under way in Oregon to build a child welfare system that best serves our most vulnerable children and families,” said Jones Gaston.
The last year has been a tumultuous one for Oregon's Child Welfare division, which has faced troubling reports of mistreatment for children in state custody housed in private out-of-state facilities, a resulting lawsuit leveled at Governor Brown and departmental leaders, and a scathing audit by the Secretary of State's office.
Governor Brown has since said that her newly formed Child Welfare Oversight Board has made progress on some of the issues, and had steps in place to address many more.