foster care changes

Oregon’s child welfare services, specifically its foster care services, have been the target of sharp and ongoing criticism in recent months. Too many children — nearly 90 at one point — were being sent out of state for treatment, where they were too often simply forgotten.

Disability Rights Oregon is suing the agency on behalf of children in foster care because, the complaint says, child welfare, part of the Department of Human Services, has failed to provide the services necessary to keep children in foster care safe.

As if to prove the point child welfare officials, trying to gauge the safety of a Medford toddler, closed their case without action two weeks after the boy and his parents went missing earlier this year. The parents were located in Montana, dead in a murder-suicide, and the child’s body was found three days later.

It’s no wonder that the governor brought in outside consultants to try to straighten the agency out and get it back on track.

Those consultants have completed their work, and while the report does include some clear signs of improvement, much of what the consultants said needs to be done is still incomplete.

Thus, everything from improving foster care family certification to gaining clients quick access to mental health and substance abuse treatment remains a work in progress. Too, the report says the state’s foster care program “faces challenges with project prioritization and execution” stemming from the “lack of cohesion around what the program is responsible for, what goals they want to accomplish, and how they utilize resources (both financial and personnel).”

It’s that last that should most concern the governor and, indeed, all Oregonians. Until those working in the foster care system can reach agreement on what they should do and how they should go about doing it, meaningful progress is unlikely. Without that progress, Oregon isn’t doing enough for its foster children.

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