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: 11851

Reported Deaths: 232
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah282472
Marion183153
Washington181520
Umatilla9877
Clackamas95527
Union3692
Lincoln3615
Malheur3021
Lane2943
Deschutes2520
Yamhill1949
Jackson1780
Linn17410
Polk17312
Jefferson1630
Morrow1381
Klamath1351
Wasco1161
Benton1126
Hood River1040
Douglas600
Josephine571
Clatsop550
Coos540
Columbia480
Lake240
Crook181
Tillamook160
Wallowa140
Baker110
Curry90
Sherman40
Harney20
Gilliam10
Grant10
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 318761

Reported Deaths: 7027
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1303943795
Riverside24765537
Orange23901421
San Diego19371422
San Bernardino18912304
Fresno790687
Imperial7827135
Alameda7725148
Kern633997
San Joaquin627968
Santa Clara5983166
Tulare5678152
Sacramento533981
Stanislaus463351
Contra Costa460589
San Francisco442650
Ventura424653
San Mateo3949112
Santa Barbara393131
Marin343430
Kings289839
Monterey254018
Solano207528
Merced188412
Sonoma165014
Placer105511
San Luis Obispo9054
Madera8938
Yolo83928
Santa Cruz5683
Napa4774
Sutter3724
Butte3384
San Benito3362
El Dorado3070
Lassen2750
Shasta1876
Yuba1803
Humboldt1654
Glenn1640
Nevada1631
Colusa1130
Mendocino1130
Lake1081
Tehama1041
Calaveras670
Tuolumne640
Del Norte600
Mono501
Siskiyou410
Amador400
Inyo341
Mariposa311
Plumas170
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Brookings
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 53°
Crater Lake
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 49°
Grants Pass
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 57°
Klamath Falls
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 49°
Sunny & seasonal Sunday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events