The Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Judicial Department and Oregon Youth Development Council have partnered with Casey Family Programs to launch this initiative aimed at safely and equitably reducing the number of children in foster care and improving the lives of the children who remain in care. Joined by the governor's office and the legislative and judicial branches, the initiative was launched in January 2009.
From 2000 to 2006, Oregon had a foster care placement rate of 10 to 12 per 1,000 children, whereas the national trend has maintained around 7 per 1,000 for this same time period. Like many states, Oregon has a disproportionately high number of children of color - most notably Native American and African American children - in the foster care system. Approximately 35 percent of the foster care populations are children of color, while the general child population in Oregon is closer to 26 percent. In addition, less than 30 percent of the children in Oregon's foster care system are placed with relatives.
Recognizing that research clearly shows children who've spent time in foster care are more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system, become teen parents and do poorly in school, each of the initiative's participants has committed to working together to bring about systemic change.
To that end, the initiative - backed by much needed technical support from Casey Family Programs - sets specific goals for reversing these trends and works with 11 participating counties as well as nine Oregon tribes, urban Native American groups, African American communities and other stakeholders to meet the goals.
This is truly a joint venture with sincere intentions to make lasting change within the child welfare system, and not just a one-shot opportunity to create short-term solutions. There is a very high level of support for approaching foster care reduction and other services across organizational boundaries. The governor, Oregon courts, legislative leaders and community stakeholders recognize that a joint partnership, using the best assets of multiple agencies and organizations, is the best strategy to long-term, sustainable change.