We are in a challenging time as a state with our budget. I know everyone is working hard with fewer resources, and the recent reductions to services have been difficult.
In the midst of this, it's important to stop and recognize when good work is being done, so this week I want to highlight some achievements that were recently announced from DHS child welfare.
Many of you remember the negative findings from the 2007 federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) we received. Those findings showed starkly that we needed to do more to keep children safe in Oregon. So we built a plan to improve the way we do our work and improve the safety of children in Oregon. I am proud to say that we met all improvement goals to increase safety and stability for the children who come in contact with our system.
Today fewer children are being abused or neglected in foster care, fewer children experience repeat abuse, more children are returning sooner and safely to their families, more children who cannot return home are being adopted sooner, and fewer children experience more than two foster family placements.
In addition, were making strides in other areas. Here are the numbers from 2009:
- 10 percent fewer children spent time in foster care in 2009 than in 2008;
- The percentage of children who were re-abused declined by 39 percent;
- The number of children abused in foster care was reduced by 32 percent;
- 16 percent fewer children who left foster care had to come back into care, remaining safely at home with their families; and,
- 15 percent more children coming into foster care are immediately placed with their relatives today than in 2008, Oregon's highest level in nearly a decade.
Also this week Oregon saw a joint declaration by the Governor, the Judicial Department, Casey Family Programs, Oregon Commission on Children and Families and DHS in recognition that child safety, health and well-being were top priorities. This agreement highlighted the partnership among Oregon communities, state agencies and the courts to work together to safely reduce the number of children in foster care and ensure that children of color, especially African American and Native American children, do not continue to be overrepresented in foster care.
And later this month I will be joining my counterpart to the north to sign a Washington-Oregon agreement that will expedite child placements so children don't experience unnecessary delay if their family members live on the other side of the state line from where they are. We know that placing children quickly helps reduce the trauma and uncertainty of foster care, especially with family or relatives.
We have come a long way since 2007 thanks to child welfare front line staff and managers across the state and the leadership of Erinn Kelley-Siel, who joined DHS in 2008. We still have more work to do. We cannot rest until every child with whom we have contact is safe. But this kind of progress is heartening.
Every day child welfare staff make life-and-death decisions on behalf of children across the state. It's an awesome responsibility and we all need to give them as much support as we can, particularly in a time when workforce reductions and hiring freezes across the agency are making their challenges even greater. So I want to send my personal thanks to each and every member of our team who works in child welfare. I know that every day they strive to do better, and it really shows.