Foster Care a Top Priority for Oregon?

After a year-long investigation Secretary of State, Dennis Richardson’s office has released a report showing that the Oregon Foster Care System is failing.

On the heels of that audit, Republican Rep. Knute Buehler is calling for Gov. Kate Brown to make foster care a priority financially. He urges that $50 million should be used to create a Foster Care Rapid Response Team. Too many of the 8,000 kids in the system are being deprived of food, beaten by caregivers, and in some cases murdered. The report shows overwhelming staff caseloads, fewer foster homes, inadequate support for foster parents, and a lack of ability to keep kids safe.

Buehler says, “This crisis is a complete betrayal of the public trust to care for some of the most vulnerable kids in the state. The situation is heartbreaking to me and should not be tolerated in the Oregon we love.”

Last year Gov. Brown replaced the head of the Department of Human Services and the head of The Foster Care Program. Buehler says that’s not enough. He is critical of the lack of response to the audit that showed a $40 million payout by DHS over 12 years on cases of abuse and neglect. Recommendations to adopt data-driven decision making and increase staffing resources cost money that is currently unavailable.

A 2012 review showed the state had inconsistent applications of procedures during the investigatory process and a lack of follow-up on allegations of abuse of children in foster care. The system is long overdue for an overhaul, and it seems now that the children’s safety depends on it.