STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Report: Oregon foster care system needs 'extensive work'

The report itself is a follow-up to a 2018 state audit that found systemic issues in the way the DHS manages the approximately 7,500 foster children in its care.

Posted: Jun 5, 2019 11:58 AM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's troubled foster care system still needs to undergo "extensive work" if it wants to adequately address child safety issues, according to a new report released Wednesday from the secretary of state's Office.

But a lack of funding could stand in the way of any major progress, and the report notes the state's Department of Human Services will need an expensive overall requiring hundreds of new staff members plus years of dedicated investments from legislators and community members.

"There is nothing more important than the wellbeing of children," Secretary of State Bev Clarno said in a statement. "DHS is moving in the right direction, but there is still work that needs to be done to ensure proper staffing, suitable foster homes and residential facilities, and a better overall culture."

The report itself is a follow-up to a 2018 state audit that found systemic issues in the way the DHS manages the approximately 7,500 foster children in its care. Child welfare workers, overburdened with high caseloads, had little to no time to meet in person with the children in their care. Out of a lack of quality foster care homes, the department has been forced to keep children in hotels, refurbished juvenile jails or in out-of-state, for-profit facilities where child welfare advocates say kids were neglected and left vulnerable to further abuses.

The agency has weathered years criticism and has recently been slapped with a federal lawsuit alleging that DHS has failed to shield children from abuse.

The secretary of state's office notes that DHS has taken some positive steps, working to improve workplace culture and expand training opportunities for caseworkers. But the report notes that problems still remain.

Progress going forward could be more difficult, as the office cautions that "uncertain funding for improvements could undermine those efforts."


CLICK HERE for our story on a recent executive order issued by Gov. Brown aimed at dealing with the child welfare crisis.


The report stresses that reducing caseworker turnover and workload is likely the "most important" step in addressing the flaws within the foster care system, but it's also the most expensive.

The Secretary of State's office estimates that the department would need an additional 570 caseworkers and 800 support workers to meet its staffing needs, far more than even DHS' original estimates. That, the office admits, would require "extensive funding."

It's a tough ask, especially as legislative budget leaders are looking to make 5% cuts across nearly all state agencies.

Gov. Kate Brown recommended spending $762 million on foster care in her proposed budget late last year, which is $56 million more than what the agency needs to maintain existing services. But her budget, which prioritizes recruiting foster parents and expanding placements for high-needs youth, notably doesn't include the agency's requests for an additional $77 million to expand staffing levels.

Legislators are finalizing agency budgets and must decide how to allocate the historic amount of revenue flowing into the state before the end of June. But despite the unexpected increase in cash flow, budget leaders have cautioned prudence and previously suggested investing the money into the state's rainy-day fund.

Brown wants to use $50 million of the surplus revenue to pay for additional caseworkers among other improvements, saying it's the first step to "lower caseloads, and improve staff culture and child safety."

"To move forward and make meaningful change, the agency needs more resources and expertise," she said in a statement. "I have deployed an oversight board and crisis management team, but the Legislature needs to do their part and provide the funding needed for the state to better serve children."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 42808

Reported Deaths: 664
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah9292163
Marion5929108
Washington583877
Umatilla337645
Clackamas317265
Lane241927
Malheur192738
Jackson17076
Deschutes113613
Yamhill100115
Linn81615
Polk65715
Jefferson6059
Morrow5457
Lincoln51713
Union4682
Benton4456
Klamath4173
Douglas3598
Wasco34816
Hood River2771
Columbia2691
Josephine2693
Coos2510
Clatsop2440
Baker1253
Crook1102
Tillamook700
Curry581
Wallowa462
Lake380
Harney340
Sherman190
Gilliam110
Grant110
Wheeler20
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 914888

Reported Deaths: 17460
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3020777027
Riverside669931303
San Bernardino633671073
Orange589801454
San Diego55210877
Kern33928416
Fresno30969439
Sacramento25601491
Santa Clara24425392
Alameda23471462
San Joaquin21729489
Contra Costa18763242
Stanislaus17714398
Tulare17590288
Ventura14330165
Imperial12967336
San Francisco12189140
Monterey1141990
San Mateo11198159
Santa Barbara9827122
Merced9531155
Sonoma9494136
Kings826483
Solano744576
Marin7096129
Madera503774
Placer420757
San Luis Obispo417432
Yolo321959
Butte309552
Santa Cruz280825
Napa196616
Shasta195431
Sutter186512
San Benito144215
El Dorado13514
Yuba132310
Mendocino113621
Tehama8928
Lassen7661
Lake69816
Glenn6713
Nevada6238
Humboldt56810
Colusa5516
Calaveras34218
Amador33116
Tuolumne2754
Inyo23115
Siskiyou2050
Del Norte1801
Mono1802
Mariposa792
Plumas700
Modoc360
Trinity270
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 64°
Brookings
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 57°
Crater Lake
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 46°
Grants Pass
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 52°
Klamath Falls
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 46°
Cold morning, warm afternoon
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events