|Over the past few weeks several members of the DHS staff have been in the legislative limelight as the divisions present their budget proposals before the human services ways and means subcommittee. This is an important opportunity every two years for DHS to tell the story of our work in Oregon's communities to help people stay safe, independent and healthy. Out of the presentations the committee will work with the legislative budget builders to make the difficult funding decisions for the 2009-2011 budget.
Because while there are plenty of PowerPoint handouts and wonky charts and graphs that go along with these presentations, at the heart of it are the people we serve and this year how we tell that story is more important than ever.
So far, the Children, Adults and Families Division (CAF) and Public Health have presented. Addictions and Mental Health (AMH) has been presenting this week and will continue into next.
CAF kicked things off in February and Interim Assistant Director Erinn Kelley-Siel and her staff spent nine days before the committee. This week I want to share some highlights from the CAF presentations and in the coming weeks will do the same with the other divisions.
First, the numbers. Here is what CAF reported for 2008.
- Increased the number of adoptions to more than 1,000 children
- Reduced the number of children in foster care
- Increased the number of adoptions that kept siblings together
- The incidences of repeat child abuse have declined
- CAF responded to more than 65,000 reports of abuse and neglect
- CAF served nearly 14,000 children in foster care and 8,367 in their homes
- Licensed and monitored 237 private child care agencies
- Provided food assistance to 639,228 - or one in eight - Oregonians
- Provided cash assistance and employment supports to more than 21,600 families
- Provided child care assistance to more than 18,500 families (more than 34,400 children)
- Assisted 6,275 families with 10,692 children to escape domestic violence
Vocational Rehabilitation Services:
- Provided services to nearly 14,700 people with disabilities, with more than 2,600 becoming employed
When you look at how many families CAF helps it is truly breathtaking.
One important story CAF workers told lawmakers was about the daily challenges of keeping up with the increased caseloads of economic services such as TANF and food stamps. Field workers Meies Matz and Maria Juliana Picon, and Bend branch manager Pat Carey did such a great job telling their stories that Committee Chair Rep. Tina Kotek and Rep. Carolyn Tomei have each pledged to visit a field office as soon as their legislative schedules allow.
The committee also showed a keen interest in how we can prevent the need for child welfare services through adequate supports for child and family services, such as TANF and addiction and mental health treatment. The struggles that adults have with drug and alcohol have a direct impact on the safety of their children and are the leading factor in nearly 60 percent of our foster child caseload.
That also underscores how critical it is for our divisions to work together. Both CAF and AMH have presented about an innovative program funded by the 2007 Legislature called Intensive Treatment and Recovery Services (ITRS) for addicted families, which is a collaborative effort between AMH and CAF to get more and better addiction treatment to parents and families.
More than 1,400 parents have accessed these services so far and most of them remain actively involved in treatment today. More than 140 children have been reunited with their parents and are no longer in family foster care, resulting in a savings of $276,406.20 a month for the cost of foster care.
This is yet another example of the creative and innovative work we are doing every day and these legislative hearings are a great opportunity to show how we help families get back on track. Over the next few weeks I'll share some highlights from the Public Health and Addictions and Mental Health presentations.
To see CAF's entire presentation, click here.