May is National Foster Care Month, a time to turn our attention to the children and youth in care and to honor the dedicated foster families, relatives, volunteers and child welfare professionals who get involved with children and young people to help change their lives for the better.
This week's Director's Message is from Erinn Kelley-Siel, DHS assistant director for Children, Adults and Families.
Last year in Oregon, more than 13,000 children spent at least one day in some kind of foster care because they could not remain safely at home with their parents, usually because of drug and alcohol abuse and/or domestic violence in their homes.
Children in foster care need safety and stability, and we're working to become the safest foster care system in the country. The good news is we are getting closer to reaching that goal:
- Last year, our state's financial supports for children in foster care increased;
- The number of children in foster care who were abused by their foster parents declined by 32 percent;
- First placements with relatives increased by more than 20 percent;
- The number of children who had two or fewer placements increased by 10 percent; and
- About 10 percent fewer Oregon children spent time in foster care in 2009 compared to 2008.
These milestones of improvement could not have been reached without the great work of our staff, the commitment of foster and relative caregivers, quality services delivered by our partner providers, and the support of communities across Oregon.
Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go to be sure that all children in Oregon are safe, well, and connected to their families, their communities and their cultural identities.
Ideally, all families would have the support they need to safely parent and prepare their children for adulthood. Ideally, no child would need the government to keep him or her safe. However, keeping children safe and families stable are goals that child welfare cannot accomplish alone.
We need the help and support of individuals and communities in every city and town in Oregon.
Every day, people like you who work for this organization make a difference in the lives of children and families -- both as DHS employees and as members of your communities throughout the state. I am proud to work with so many individuals who have dedicated their time, their energy and their hearts to making better the lives of children, young people, their families and their relative or foster caregivers.
Many of you have witnessed the powerful impact that individuals can have in the life of a child or young person in foster care. Individuals can make a difference not only by working in child welfare or becoming foster parents, but in many other ways, such as by volunteering to tutor a young person in foster care and supporting his or her academic and lifelong success, or becoming a mentor or coach to parents who are struggling.
I hope you'll join me this month -- and throughout the year -- by encouraging family, friends and neighbors to consider how they can personally have a positive effect on the life of a child in foster care. And I thank you for all that you do every day to make a difference throughout Oregon.