Alyssa Sutton

On May 8, Gov. Kate Brown proclaimed May to be Foster Care Month in Oregon, to honor the work of foster parents, child welfare caseworkers and community members who support children in foster care.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, over the last year and a half Brown has asked for and received $50 million in new investments to support the work of the Child Welfare Division in Oregon. With recently approved funding in the February legislative session, the department is currently in the process of hiring 200 additional child welfare staffers. At Brown’s request, Department of Human Services Director Fariborz Pakseresht is also implementing a number of innovative practices in the child welfare system to relieve caseloads and give foster children a higher level of care.

According to an audit released by the secretary of state on Oregon’s foster system earlier this year, the high staff turn-over rate is one of the main issues with the current system.

“We are so fortunate in Oregon to have so many who devote themselves to creating safe, nurturing environments that enable our children to thrive,” said Brown in the press release. “Yet, the rapid growth of children in foster care means that progress in their care is outpaced by the stresses that substance use, housing instability, behavioral health issues and domestic violence have put on Oregon’s families. We can support caseworkers and families in Oregon’s foster care by tackling these root causes.”

The press release stated that the root causes for struggle within Oregon’s foster system include addiction, housing, behavioral health issues and income inequality. Since 2015, Brown has partnered with Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care for children across the nation.

According to the Oregon Child Welfare Data, In-Home Safety and Reunification services were created by the Oregon Legislature in June, specifically to address the needs of children and families who come to the attention of child welfare through a report of abuse –– while also designed to maintain children safely in the home and reducing the lengths of stay in foster care and addressing re-abuse of children.

See complete story in Monday's Observer