Last weekend the Salem Statesman-Journal ran a two-day series about foster children in Oregon and how DHS is working in Marion County with community members to keep foster children safe and healthy.
If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, I encourage you to take a look. It was a comprehensive piece that included video and photos to tell this important story. You can find it at
www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=rac_keyissues. In addition, there is a related commentary by Rene DuBoise at
www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008810250314. Rene is the district manager of CAF for Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties. The theme of her piece is that foster parents play a critical role in Oregon's child protection system. But foster care by design is temporary, and children do best when their living situation is both safe and permanent.
"Sixty-four percent of all children that came into state care in 2007 were safely returned home and most never need us again. And that's a good thing, because in our business, one way we measure success is by the customers who don't come back," she writes. While not every child can safely return home, we are striving to ensure a safe and permanent home for every child in our care.
I want to pick up where the Statesman-Journal story left off and talk more about some ways CAF is working to improve our services to foster children.
More than 15,000 children spent at least one day in foster care in 2007, and on any given day in Oregon between 9,500 and 9,800 children are in foster care. Although the number of children served in foster care in Oregon declined in 2007, Oregon continues to place more children in foster care than most states in the country.
That's why we are looking ahead and setting our sights on safely reducing the number of children in foster care. It's essential that we take this preventive approach. To accomplish that goal, a variety of strategies are being put in motion, such as increasing supports to enable children to safely stay at home with their parents, increasing placement options with relatives, and reducing the time it takes to finalize adoptions. We also are creating strategies to reduce the disproportionality index for Native American and African American children.
Within the next two to five years we're setting specific targets for ourselves in key areas including reducing the number of kids entering foster care by 20 percent by 2011. You'll be hearing more soon about our goals and how we're going to meet them.
Most importantly, as evidenced by efforts in Marion County and the great work of our staff throughout the state, we are working more closely than ever before with our community partners. And almost as important, our community partners across the state share our vision in meeting these targets. The people and organizations that work to improve the lives of Oregon's children are more united than they've ever been before and that's going to make all the difference.