Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
May 29, 2009 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
Celebrating foster families
"To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons."
~Marilyn French
In the time it will take you to read this message, DHS will receive another report of a child being harmed in Oregon.

During 2008, DHS received more than 65,400 reports of child abuse and neglect - one report every eight minutes. Investigations of these reports found that more than 10,400 Oregon children were victims of child abuse or neglect. Almost half of those victims were younger than age 6, and most - nearly 75 percent - were abused by one of their parents.

Jasmin and Gabriella
Jasmin and Gabriella

There are two important things to think about when we think about child welfare. First and foremost let's keep children safe at home with their parents - and when they need our help let's keep them safe in foster care.

The abuse and neglect of Oregon's children is a daily tragedy that pulls at the moral fiber of our state. And every day there are unsung heroes who are stepping up to help.

That is why I am pleased to join in the celebration of foster families as part of May's National Foster Care Month. This is a time to honor and support the extraordinary people who provide care to children who are experiencing the trauma of separation from their families due to abuse or neglect.

Oregon's foster families open their homes and hearts to children whose families are in crisis and play a vital role helping children and families heal and reconnect with each other. Without foster families, the system simply wouldn't work. If you know anyone who is a foster parent please take a moment to thank them for everything they do.

This weekend, you can do even more - the National Foster Care Association is holding a walk Saturday in three locations around the state to raise funds to support foster families. Representatives from the Children, Adults and Families Division will be there. Click here to learn more about the walk and sign up to participate: www.walkmehome.org. If you cannot make it to a walk, another way to help is to contribute to the Children First for Oregon's duffle bag drive that provides basic essentials to children.

On any given day, 8,775 Oregon children are in foster care. As is the case in most states, there are not enough foster parents to fill the need and the key to success will be reducing the need. Last year we made strides in that direction.

Foster families play a critical role, but that role is designed to be temporary. Children do best when their living situation is safe and permanent. In 2008, about 60 percent of children leaving foster care were reunited with their families. Almost 14,000 children spent at least one day in foster care in 2008, about 1,000 fewer than the year before.

Those are important successes that we must build on as we continually improve our child welfare system.

The first step is simple: making sure there are adequate addictions treatment and supports to keep parents in treatment. Drug and alcohol addiction tears families apart. More than 40 percent of foster children are in care because one or both parents have lost control of their lives and their families due to this terrible disease. It also puts a heavy burden on our system.

Every dollar spent on addictions treatment results in a return of between $4 and $7. That's money that could be reinvested to help make up the shortfall between what it costs to care for children and the reimbursement foster parents receive from the state. Research has shown that Oregon is among the lowest-paying states when it comes to financial support for our foster parents.

So even in these difficult budget times we must continue striving to reduce the number of children in care and invest in our foster families so that they can continue with the good work they are doing.

And that would truly be something to celebrate.

DHS on the web