It’s not hard to find a silver lining. Even in the challenges our state’s Department of Human Services system faces—and with all eyes on DHS from the Governor’s office to the local level government—we’re seeing some encouraging progress. In the past months, there’s been a renewed commitment to work together across agency lines, to infuse DHS with resources, to create pathways, to engage with community. All of this takes time, but as I think about some of the encouraging things I’m encountering from a system-wide perspective, the list is long:
- Various systems are meeting together monthly to address barriers that affect our most vulnerable youth. At these meetings are leaders from the school districts, hospitals, mental health providers, DHS, therapeutic foster providers, etc. all of whom are committed to synergizing efforts and reducing red tape.
- The Legislature approved $750,000 of special funds for DHS to allocate to new foster family support efforts, which will include respite care, mentorship between experienced foster providers and those newly stepping in, and flex funding for tangible items that foster families need when first receiving placements. This is temporary funding, but will hopefully help to build a case for the next legislative session.
- Oregon Governor Kate Brown approved 178 new positions for DHS, which will include caseworkers, case aides and clerical staff (administrative support for caseworkers), social services assistants (who assist with transport and supervision for visits between bio families and children in care), etc.
- A subsidy for childcare assistance was approved for foster providers who work full-time, and will likely roll out in the next few months.
- The State of Oregon’s educational system and DHS are working side-by-side to align data in order to be able to provide information about the impact of foster care on a child’s educational progress.
- DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht and Child Welfare Director Marilyn Jones hosted 10 listening sessions/community forums across the state, and are compiling feedback from foster families, youth in care, biological families, community partners and DHS staff to inform the agency’s way forward.
When linking arms with a government agency, we recognize that community plays a major role in caring well for the most vulnerable in the community. And, I’m finding myself encouraged by the attention being paid and the increased resources that have been allocated to improve the child welfare system from the inside.
I hope you are encouraged, too!
-Brooke Gray, Every Child Executive Director