Kids in foster care harmed by an overloaded child welfare system

| May 18, 2020 | Child Abuse |

Oregon’s Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division has weathered negative reviews, lawsuits and poor audits over the years. The beleaguered and understaffed agency has settled allegations of neglect and abuse totaling almost $40 million between 2006 and 2019. 

As reported by The Statesman Journal, an executive order issued by Oregon’s governor in 2019 created a crisis management team to recommend and implement ways to fix the overburdened foster care system. A class action lawsuit filed that same year alleges that the dysfunction within the system has traumatized and harmed children within the agency intended to care for them. 

Caseworker burnout, minimal experience and too many kids to look out for 

Oregon’s foster care system involves between 7,000 and 8,000 children on a given day. As reported by The Register-Guard, the system served more than 11,000 children during 2018 but also received over seven times as many reports of neglect and abuse. Caseworker burnout, minimal front-line worker experience and an overwhelming caseload contributed to the system’s inability to effectively follow up on reports of abuse. 

The team created by the governor’s 2019 executive order has noted progress in addressing some of the issues, and the state has begun a recruitment effort to increase staffing. The system, however, still requires further work and progress before it can begin to effectively serve the children in its care. 

Long-term effects 

Children traumatized or physically harmed while under the care or supervision of Oregon’s DHS may find that their negative experiences can affect their adult life. According to a federal audit conducted in 2016, the majority of the foster parents the DHS found for children lacked the required child-rearing skills, which has led to neglectful or abusive situations. Children repeatedly moved between various homes and facilities may also experience long-term effects.