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DHS 2014 Director's Messages

  
11/17/2014

November is National Adoption Month, a national effort to raise awareness about children in foster care waiting for permanent families. Today, I want to share a message from our Child Welfare Director and our Permanency Manager about the importance of keeping brothers and sisters together, whenever we can, in adoption placements. Oregon does a very good job in that because we know how important those connections can be.

This year, I’ve been especially struck by the official theme song for the 2014 celebration. It’s called “Home,” and it is a powerful, emotional statement about the importance of permanency for children – and really, for everyone. You can hear the song on this YouTube video. We believe every Oregon child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving family, free from abuse and neglect, with support for success in school – and that’s why we support National Adoption Month. 

Have a great week, and keep reading for an important message about sibling connections and Camp To Belong.

~Erinn

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Honor Sibling Connections during National Adoption Month

Message from DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day and Permanency Manager Kathy Prouty

November is National Adoption Month, a time to raise awareness about the more than 100,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system, some of whom are in sibling groups awaiting adoptive families. The focus of this year’s initiative, “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections,” highlights the importance of sibling bonds for children’s development and emotional well-being.

In 2013, 82 percent of Oregon’s foster children who were part of a sibling group were placed together. When we are not able to do this, siblings can reunite and build lifelong memories through Camp To Belong. Over the past 10 years, Oregon chapter of Camp To Belong has reunited more than 1400 youth and their siblings. Camp To Belong provides a week of summer camp for siblings who have been separated in foster care, guardianship, or adoption. The camp is designed to provide a sense of belonging to youth as individuals and as siblings, giving them meaningful opportunities to deepen their bond, create memories and build friendships with other campers.

The all-volunteer run non-profit organization is sponsored by Oregon Foster Parent Association and is dependent entirely on donations. Every year, the Child Permanency Program helps raise money for the camp. This year, the program is holding a silent auction November 17-19. To be auctioned off are gift baskets donated by branch offices and various program areas here in Central Office. The lobby will also feature various program related displays throughout the month. Please take some time to stop and make a bid to help support Camp To Belong.

This month, let us reaffirm our commitment to provide all children with every chance to reach their dreams of a safe and nurturing family and to preserve and promote their connections with their siblings. Please visit the Website for more information about adopting a foster child or sibling group or call 1-800-331-0503. ​​

  
11/3/2014

Hello DHS,

As we move into preparations for the 2015 Legislative session, I want to take a few of my weekly messages to reinforce the important goals and outcomes DHS is working on – that all of YOU are working on – for our clients, customers, families, partners, and providers. I believe it’s important to keep our eye on that North Star as we do our daily work. After all, it’s why we’re here!

In last week’s message I talked about the important work being done by the Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigation (OAAPI) to ensure that every Oregon adult is able to live in safety – free from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Thanks to the work of OAAPI, state investigators, APS Specialists and community partners across the state, we are getting closer to making that vision Oregon’s reality. By the way, they had a very successful national conference last week, so congratulations on that wonderful achievement.

Today I want to talk about another important outcome we are working for: child safety and family stability. We believe that every Oregon child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving family, free from abuse and neglect, with support for success in school. We also believe that only those children who cannot safely remain at home should ever come in to the foster care system.

Last week, I was in Washington, D.C. to talk about this very subject at a meeting sponsored by the Brookings Institution. Without getting into every detail, I talked about Oregon’s experience with the threats to child safety and out-of-home foster care. My bottom line in the presentation was that our old ways of thinking and intervening in families were not working – in fact, the trauma of removing children from home was sometimes making life worse for them, especially if they remained in foster care for too long.

It wasn’t because we were not adequately resourcing our foster care services, but because our child welfare system was historically not designed to address challenges families are facing that are creating safety risks for children, i.e., poverty, housing, substance abuse and mental health issues.

So Oregon, with the support of the Governor and Legislature, starting buying new kinds of services through to provide support for the issues families were facing. We enhanced our Child Welfare practice model to provide an alternate response to families and allow them to keep their children at home and out of foster care. We are working to align shared responsibility for outcomes across systems (with TANF, Health Care, and Education/Early Learning). We are engaging communities in a broader discussion about local drivers/outcomes related to the safe and equitable reduction of children who experience foster care. Finally, we worked to secure a new IV-E Waiver that will allow us to pursue a reinvestment strategy with these federal funds and continue foster care reduction.

Because of this laser focus on achieving our outcome, the result we expect to see is more children safely at home, with their families, in school and out of trouble. We also expect to see more parents able to deal with their issues and provide a stable home and family life for these children. Those are the outcomes we all want for the individuals and families we serve.

As I said earlier, we believe that every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving family, free from abuse and neglect. It’s likely the most fundamental outcome we are working for – safe children and stable families. In my opinion, everything else is built upon that foundation.

In the coming weeks, I’ll talk more about these other important DHS outcomes we are all working to achieve:

  • Every Oregonian has the right to live as independently as possible -- with dignity, choice and self-determination.
  • Every Oregonian can work to the best of their abilities to contribute to their family and their community.
  • Our programs and services are investments to support individuals, families and communities to be safe, healthy and independent.
  • Every Oregonian has the right to be served by an effective, efficient government, focused on their needs and delivering services with respect and equity.

Let me hear from you, too. What goal keeps you working with passion and commitment for the people of Oregon and the communities we live in and love?

Have a great week!

~Erinn​​

  
10/27/2014

Hello DHS,

Back in the spring of 2012, when DHS and the Oregon Health Authority created the Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations (OAAPI), our goal was to provide improved oversight and coordination for adult abuse investigations around the state. With a single focus, this office could provide much needed consistency and technical expertise to this important service. 

Oregon’s front-line APS investigators work for many different organizations (DHS, OHA, county mental health and developmental disability programs, Area Agencies on Aging and others) and are responsible for conducting and coordinating protective services in response to reports of abuse and neglect of vulnerable Oregonians, including: adults over the age of 65; adults with physical disabilities; adults with developmental disabilities; adults with mental illness; and children receiving residential treatment services.

Leading all that work is a big job, and I am proud to say today that the goal we had when we created OAAPI is becoming the reality in all the ways we hoped it would:

  • We are gathering, analyzing and publishing data, in many cases for the first time, about the complex issues of adult abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
  • No matter where you live in the state, you will get a more timely, thorough and consistent response to abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult or child that we serve.
  • We hold perpetrators more accountable and more often are preventing or reducing the risk of harm to vulnerable citizens who live in licensed care settings or their own home.
  • Stronger community partnerships are helping us ensure a more comprehensive approach to prevention efforts and abuse investigations.

This week, Oregon is hosting the 2014 National Adult Protective Services Association 25th Annual Conference. It is the first time Oregon has hosted this major national conference, which brings together the experts on protecting all vulnerable adults. It’s a tremendous honor to have the national conference here, and it’s also great recognition on the national stage for the work of OAPPI Director Marie Cervantes, her team at OAAPI, Oregon’s Elder Abuse Task Force, and the support of the Oregon legislature and Governor for critical investments in staff.

We believe every Oregon adult deserves to live in safety – free from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. We have a long way to go to achieve that vision. However, because of the work of OAAPI, investigators, APS Specialists and community partners across the state, we are getting closer to making that vision Oregon’s reality.

Thank you for the work you do and have a great week!

~Erinn ​

  
10/20/2014

Hello DHS,

I don’t normally make suggestions like this, but if you’re looking for a good book to read and share, I can highly recommend Rules by Cynthia Lord. It’s a quick read that you’ll find in the children’s section. It’s written for young readers (grades 4-6), and it is a beautiful story about Catherine, a twelve-year old girl who has a brother, David, who has autism. At one point in the story, David asks Catherine to make a wish on some stars and Catherine –acknowledging her wish as a long shot says, “I wish everyone had the same chances...Because it stinks a big one that they don’t.” When you read the book, you’ll be hard pressed not to cry at this point (and then you’ll laugh – when you read David’s wish).

Even if you never read the book, Catherine’s wish should resonate as one of the primary reasons we do what we do: to give more Oregonians the chance to reach their full potential. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, and it is a great opportunity to recognize the importance of giving people with disabilities – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities -- the same chances everyone else has to work in an integrated job in their community.

To build awareness and inspire action in celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Employment First Team will be sharing employment success stories involving local Oregon community efforts to improve employment outcomes. You can read those stories on the Employment First website.

There was also a great video done earlier this year by Oregon Council of Developmental Disabilities. It’s called “Expect me to succeed, I Will,”. Focusing on expectations and outcomes, this video has great information and will also inspire you to “press on” on those tough days when the work is hard.

Because not everyone has the same chances in this life, our work is hard – but that’s ultimately why we are here. Thank you for all you are doing to give more of the same chances to the Oregonians we serve. In the small and big efforts that you make, you make a difference.

Have a great week!

~Erinn

  
10/13/2014

Hello DHS,

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it is important that we continue to pay attention to this important issue. We talk about domestic violence every October as part of DV Awareness Month, but because of its impact on our clients and our mission – safety, health and independence -- it is an issue I believe we need to talk about more than just once a year. And I believe we need to talk about it more openly. Domestic violence is a widespread problem impacting all ages, all socioeconomic classes, communities of faith, people of different sexual orientations and all cultures. It’s around us every day, and if we look at the statistics, many of you have been – or know someone who has been – a victim of domestic violence. Rarely will you find an issue that impacts so many people.

I’d like to share this information from the National Network to End Domestic Violence: “We feel safer when we think domestic violence happens somewhere else to someone else. In reality, domestic violence occurs in our neighborhoods and in our families. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic status. Abusers control and terrorize our daughters, bosses, sisters, friends, and even our sons – who are most often abused by their male partners and sometimes their female partners. There is a myth that victims must have low self-esteem, but this is exactly that: a myth. Never doubt that all survivors are incredibly strong. They get up every day knowing that the person who should be most supportive will likely spend the day threatening to harm the children and pets, controlling and monitoring their activities, and verbally or physically abusing them. Victims get out of bed every day despite the odds against them to persevere, raise their children with love, and make the world a safer place for the next generation.”

One of the most important ways you can impact the issue of domestic violence is to break the silence that often surrounds DV. DHS should be a place where we understand domestic violence, work to prevent and intervene where appropriate, and where we support those who have been victims. Let’s be the place where this issue doesn’t remain hidden.

If you want to know more about how to help a friend or family member who you suspect may be the victim of domestic violence, go to the DHS Domestic Violence web page. And if you’re a parent, there’s a new resource from the White House, too. The President has launched a new initiative with a focus on dating violence and sexual assault called “1 is 2 Many,” and it also has lots of information about this specific topic – for parents, as well as young men and women.

Be safe, and have a good week.

~Erinn

  
10/6/2014

Cultural Humility: A willingness to suspend what you know, or what you think you know, about people based on generalizations, no matter how well intentioned.

Hello DHS,

Each quarter, the DHS Executive Team dedicates time to our core value of Service Equity and its application to our work at DHS. As part of that effort, last week we explored the difference between cultural competence and cultural humility. Simply put, cultural competence is a framework that focuses on knowledge and suggests that, with enough training and study, someone can be “competent” in a culture other than your own. Cultural humility, on the other hand, is a framework that encourages personal reflection and lifelong learning, with an emphasis on the opportunity to recognize – and challenge - the power imbalances that can get in the way of respectful interactions and partnerships.

Both frameworks have value, but our national conversation about race and ethnicity in recent months (police shootings, immigration, etc.) has underscored for me the complexity of culture and the reality of privilege. Given all of that, a framework that highlights the fact that none of us has all of the answers is a relief – at least for me!

That isn’t where the practice of cultural humility ends, however. As someone once said, “Understanding is only as powerful as the action that follows.”

Our customers are complex human beings who intersect multiple dimensions of culture – race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, age, etc. People come to DHS – or we go to them - in their moments of deepest need. We hold power in the services we have to offer. The practice of cultural humility reminds us that our customers have power in the information they hold about their personal histories and preferences. Ultimately, when we learn from each other and work together, we get a better result.

As a DHS employee, you are uniquely in a position to positively impact people’s lives in amazing ways. Please take some time to think about how your own cultural identity and behavior affects others, and consider the opportunities you have in your day-to-day work to learn from your customers and your colleagues.

~Erinn

If you'd like to learn more about cultural humility, I encourage you to watch (either individually or maybe in a unit or branch meeting), a 30-minute documentary called "Cultural Humility: People, Principles and Practices." It is a film by San Francisco State professor Vivian Chávez that mixes poetry with music, interviews, archival footage, and images of community, nature and dance to explain what Cultural Humility is -- and why we need it.

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9/29/2014

Hello DHS,

Last week I announced the latest two Director’s Excellence Award winners, and a message I got back from one of the award winners really got me thinking about the people who are nominated -- and the people who make those nominations. Lauren Mitchell, here in Central Office with Aging and People with Disabilities, sent me this email last week: “I just won the Director’s Excellence Award, which is very much an honor, and I am so humbled to have been nominated, but I am wondering if I might be able to decline the award for myself and instead give it to the APD/AAA field staff and managers. These folks are out in the trenches every day working in almost impossible conditions. The fact that they have kept their compassion, sense of humor and focus on the people we serve is what should really be getting the award. I feel that we don’t often enough to recognize the amazing service that they do every day and the tremendous stress that they are under. I happen to be in a more visible position, but they are the ones who are doing the hardest work.”

First of all, Lauren’s message makes it even more clear to me that I picked the right person for a Director’s Excellence award. But Lauren’s note also shows an important trait I’ve seen over and over here at DHS: you work very hard to support your fellow employees in order to provide what our clients, customers and their families need.

That commitment to your colleagues isn’t something you learned in training or a class. It’s not something that you do because it’s part of your performance appraisal from your supervisor. It’s in your hearts to reach out and help. I’ve seen it so many times in offices across the state – your commitment to service and support for each other and the Oregonians you serve. The people and work units who’ve been nominated for the DHS Director’s Excellence are a reflection of those who MAKE the nominations, too. Those nominations are for folks who have gone above and beyond our expectations in this work, but they are nominated because their colleagues and partners want to show recognition and appreciation for them. It’s a beautiful thing – a two-way expression of care and commitment to service.

We have one more round of nominations for the awards for 2014, and I’ll make that announcement in December. I encourage you to think about your work mates and the support you provide to one another. Is there someone or some group that stands out? The Director’s Excellence Awards are one more way to express your appreciation for the work they do. Just be sure to remember that your nomination also shows me know that you’re living our Core Values in your day-to-day work. 

Thank you for everything you do. This week, I’ve been especially proud to work with you all.

~ Erinn

The 2014 DHS Director’s Excellence Awards Nominations are open – deadline Friday, December 5

  1. Any DHS employee or agency partner may make one nomination for a Director’s Excellence Award per calendar quarter. There is no formal nomination form. A nomination consists of a letter explaining how the nominee’s work meets the goals and criteria described below. The nomination must include concrete examples and should be between 1-3 pages in length.
  2. Nominations should be sent to Gene Evans, DHS Communications Director, by the end of the day on Friday, December 5.
  3. Submissions received after the deadline cannot be considered.
  4. We will confer with appropriate program Director to ensure they approve the nomination.
  5. Final Selection will be made personally by the DHS Director.
  6. The recipient(s) of the DHS Director’s Excellence Awards will be announced at the end of December.

The Director’s Excellence Award continues a DHS tradition by honoring excellent employees of the agency. Any DHS employee or agency partner may nominate someone for this award, which is given four times per year. Awards may go to individual staff members or to small work groups. Recipients must be permanent DHS employees, but they can work at any level of the organization. Awards may go to staff who work with clients, communities and partners or to employees who work internally to provide high quality programs, services and supports -- any permanent DHS employee at any level. The DHS Director’s Excellence Award recognizes employees for: outstanding work that moves DHS toward its mission of helping Oregonians in their own communities achieve well-being and independence through opportunities that protect, empower, respect choice and preserve dignity; Innovative ideas and continuous improvement efforts that increase the agency’s ability to produce positive outcomes; Exceptional efforts that make a demonstrable, positive difference in people’s lives; and Exemplary demonstration of our Core Values in action: Innovation, Integrity, Professionalism, Respect, Responsibility, Stewardship and Service Equity.

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9/15/2014
  
9/8/2014

Hello DHS,

This is the time of year when nearly everyone is thinking about transition and change. I’m sure you all feel it in the air – it’s a low buzz of excitement that happens every year. It’s really the most beautiful season in Oregon, and maybe that’s because it also carries that feeling of expectation and anticipation.

For us here at DHS, it’s also the time of year when we submit our Agency Request Budget (ARB), the first step in the legislative process for the coming two years. The ARB is important because it very clearly sets out the goals and priorities for the agency – that is, what we intend to do to ensure that Oregonians are safe, healthy and independent. I wanted to share my thoughts about those goals and priorities with you all today, and it’s my hope that we will continue this important work with the same passion that launched it a few short years ago. As I’ve said before, we intend to finish the work we have started.

I encourage you to take time to read a section of my "2015-17 Agency Request Budget Director’s Letter" (below) to familiarize yourself with our key priorities – and to think about how your own work fits into the outcomes we are working to achieve:

Safety for Children - The cost of abuse and neglect – to children, to families, and to the state – is significant. So, too, is the cost of crisis and/or residential care for children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). The agency's budget continues to target resources across programs designed to strengthen families, reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect, and transform the State and its partners’ ability to respond to families in distress.

Safety for Vulnerable Adults - Abuse of the elderly and people with physical, mental and developmental disabilities also has significant human and financial consequences. This budget proposes to strengthen the quality of Oregon’s response to reports of abuse and neglect and to enhance the State’s capacity to prevent abuse in the first place. These prevention efforts depend on strong partnerships with consumers, providers, stakeholders and community partners.

Independence for Older Adults, People with Disabilities - In the 2013-15 biennium, DHS received additional investments that expanded services and supports for the Aging and People with Disabilities and Office of Developmental Disability Programs. Those investments allowed for significant expansion of services for those populations – services designed to anticipate the growing number of people needing services from those two systems, and to target investments upfront to increase opportunities for living independently. The Department’s 2015-17 budget proposes to continue those strategic investments, with some targeted enhancements in services, provider rates, and workload models.

Family Stability and Employment - For the past two years, the Department has been piloting efforts to leverage its programs and supports to improve family economic stability and increase employment outcomes, particularly among parents. Following extensive work with partners to ensure alignment with other system transformation efforts, the DHS budget is proposing a redesign of its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that focuses on budget reinvestment, policy changes that provide a sharpened focus for locally-tailored employment strategies, streamlining of processes, and new flexibility for local investments. These strategies together are designed to build the capacity of Oregon’s poorest families to increase earnings and transition off of the TANF program through an accountable, flexible and family-centered approach.

Employment for People with Disabilities - More than 60 percent of working-age adults with disabilities are unemployed. Youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are particularly underrepresented in Oregon’s workforce. Research shows that employment for people with disabilities improves personal well-being (health, mental health), improves safety (by reducing isolation), and supports economic independence – thereby reducing dependence on other publicly funded supports. To advance the Oregon vision of economic opportunity and prosperity for all Oregonians, the Department’s budget recommends targeted investments designed to increase employment outcomes among all youth and working-age Oregonians with disabilities, with a targeted focus on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

School Readiness for Young Children and Job Retention for Low-Income Working Families - The Employment Related Day Care program helps very low-income working families from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds arrange and pay for quality child care. Quality child care nurtures a child’s learning and development so the child is better prepared to succeed in school. The Department’s proposed budget expands opportunities for low-income parents to access child care subsidies and strengthens training for providers in support of positive child development. This investment is intended to compliment the investment in quality child care being advanced through the Early Learning Division at the Oregon Department of Education.

Program Performance and Integrity - Over 1 million Oregonians each year depend on DHS for services or supports. With an imperative to improve current services, decrease operational costs and demonstrate results, this budget includes critical investments to advance the effectiveness of the Department and its provider partners – including strengthened race, ethnicity, language and disability data reporting infrastructure, eligibility and case management systems and support for performance-based management of contracted services. It also includes additional proposals relating to quality control and assurance, targeting efforts to strengthen program integrity in our Self Sufficiency programs.

Conclusion

Recognizing that there will be difficult choices to make in the 2015-17 biennium, the Department appreciates this opportunity to propose a budget that will continue to break through traditional barriers and build capacity through outcome-oriented models and person-centered approaches. As discussions continue about what services Oregon can afford in these difficult times, DHS will maintain its commitment to innovation and transparency, prioritizing improvements that will use scarce resources efficiently and effectively. DHS’s success in that effort depends upon nearly 7500 employees across the state, as well as upon thousands of community and service delivery partners, all of whom are dedicated to supporting and improving the lives of Oregonians. Every year, more than one-million people rely on DHS services to meet their most basic needs, to be safe, to live as independently as possible, and to support their efforts to achieve economic independence. It is on behalf of those Oregonians that I respectfully submit this DHS Budget.

Have a great week!

~Erinn  ​

  
8/11/2014
Hello DHS,

Last week’s message was to keep you in the loop about the Town Hall meetings we’ve been holding. We finished meetings in Portland, Bend, Eugene and Medford, as well as a statewide webinar. This week, we’ll be holding the final Town Hall in Pendleton. At those Town Halls, I haven’t been talking about the work we do broken down by DHS program area. Instead, I have been talking about our work in a way that doesn’t rely on an organization chart or a budget breakdown to understand.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving family;
  • Every adult Oregonian deserves to live in safety, free from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation;
  • Oregonians have the right to live independently with dignity, choice and self-determination;
  • Every Oregonian can work to the best of their abilities to contribute to their family and their community; and
  • Oregonians have the right to be served by an effective, efficient government, focused on their needs.

So how are we doing in reaching those important goals? I’ve attached the slide I used to wrap up the Town Hall meetings. It’s based on our QBR scorecard but in a simplified presentation. We asked community members to give us feedback and ask questions, and we’ve received hundreds of comments and questions for follow up.

So I am asking you, too – How are we doing? Take a look at the goals above and the scorecard slide, then send me your feedback and questions​. How are we doing?

Have a great week!

~Erinn

 

  
8/4/2014

Hello DHS,

This week’s message is to keep you in the loop about the Town Hall meetings we are holding. Last week, we had meetings in Portland and Bend. This week, we are meeting in Eugene, Medford and hosting an online webinar for everyone in the state. Our meetings will wrap up with a meeting in Pendleton next week.

We are getting lots of feedback and input from our communities, and I will share that with you when we complete the remaining Town Halls. Some of you have asked about the information I'm presenting, so I want to make sure you see the PowerPoint presentation​.

You'll see it's a brief progress report on our activities and our planned next steps -- but the main purpose of the meetings is to answer questions from our customers, clients, partners and stakeholders. Have a great week, and I encourage you to use the information in the attached handout as a way to begin a conversation in your local offices and work units: 

How are we doing? 

What are we missing? 

What can we do better?

~ Erinn

  
7/21/2014
“Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” 
-- George H.W. Bush, signing of Americans with Disabilities Act

July 26 is the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that is important to our clients, their families and to all of us here at DHS. The statement above mirrors my own feelings about the walls and barriers – physical and social – that still face too many Americans with disabilities. Every individual should be free from prejudices, attitudes, physical barriers and even well-intended policies and practices that prevent the full realization of their human potential.

For our own employees here at DHS, our commitment is to ensure compliance with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities who can perform the essential functions of the jobs they hold or seek -- with or without reasonable accommodation. For more information on this important protection for employees, please see the information for the Office of Equity and Multicultural Services​.

In addition, every program at DHS works with individuals who experience disability. Our Core Values provide us with the basis for how we seek to design programs and provide services across every level of our organization. As we mark this important anniversary, I encourage everyone to reaffirm their dedication to our Core Values and consider how you can strengthen your own work to provide respectful, professional, and equitable service to every Oregonian that comes in contact with our organization.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is another one of those powerful reminders that America is at its greatest when we work together to realize and support the full participation and contribution of all of our citizens.

Have a great week.

~Erinn
  
7/17/2014

Make plans to attend one of these DHS town hall meetings.

You are invited to provide input and feedback to the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) on our priorities and strategic direction for 2015-17 and beyond in the following areas: Child Welfare, Aging and People with Disabilities, Intellectual/Developmental Disability Services, Self Sufficiency Programs (SNAP, TANF, ERDC), Vocational Rehabilitation, DHS agency operations, and other human services issues. 

Our community outreach this summer has two goals: 

  • first, to report on progress toward our long-term goals and strategic efforts as an organization; and
  • second, get your thoughts and ideas as we plan for the next two years of work.

Your input and participation is extremely valuable to us.

Please make plans to attend a meeting in your local area -- or to log on for a statewide web-based meeting (if you are unable to attend in person). We need your help and ideas to ensure the safety, health and independence of all Oregonians!

Wednesday, July 30
Portland - Portland Community College (Cascade Campus, Moriarty Arts & Humanities Building)
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Portland

Friday, August 1
Bend - Central Oregon Community College (Hitchcock Auditorium)
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Bend

Monday, August 4
Eugene - Lane Community College (Center for Meeting & Learning)
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Eugene

Tuesday, August 5
Medford - Rogue Community College (RCC/SOU Higher Education Center)
10:00 am - 12:00 noon
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Medford

Thursday, August 7 (special online meeting for those unable to attend in person)
Statewide -- Web-based interactive meeting, sign-up info & other details to come later.
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
RSVP to: DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us subject line Web

Join DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel and members of the DHS Executive Team for an informative presentation and lively discussion about where the agency is today and where we are going in the next two years and beyond. Additional information will be coming soon - please forward this message to others who may be interested.

Thank you!

Questions?
Please contact DHS.DirectorsOffice@dhsoha.state.or.us

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7/7/2014

I hope everyone enjoyed the long holiday weekend! As we celebrated our national independence, I also thought about how the idea of “independence” is central to who we are. Even if you’re somebody who wants or needs assistance, it’s a pretty all-American value to want that assistance in a way that preserves your dignity and our self-worth. As an organization, our mission, vision, goals and “Know Your Why” statements deal directly with the aim of helping people to live as independently as possible – so this message is to recognize some of our recent accomplishments in doing just that!

Last month, AARP recognized our Aging and People with Disabilities program for national excellence in providing long-term services and supports to seniors and people with disabilities. APD Director Mike McCormick was invited to speak at the news event in Washington, D.C. to talk about Oregon’s history of community care. You can watch a few of Mike’s remarks at that event on YouTube (or course!) In addition, there is all the work moving forward on SB 21 and the continued expansion of ADRC with the goal of keeping more people at home or in their communities.

The Office of Developmental Disability Services completed the functional needs assessments for nearly 2,000 individuals – and amazing accomplishment – to ensure they get the right services at the right level to keep them living as independently as possible. Completing the assessments by July 1 was a federal requirement, and ODDS staff and partners pitched in to get the backlog of overdue reviews done accurately and on time. Huge congratulations to everyone on this.

Our employment efforts have been continuing to gather momentum, thanks in part to the improving economy and increased hiring, but also because of the ongoing focus of DHS staff in SNAP, TANF, OVRS, ERDC and Employment First to help individuals get and maintain employment. There are so many benefits to a job – and a sense of independence is a very important aspect of working. Employment also stabilizes those families who have been through the worst of the recession to keep them from falling further behind or becoming even more at risk. Everyone is doing hard work and getting consistently good results.

Finally, our exceptional work in Child Welfare to develop and implement the array of services in the Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families initiative is also setting the foundation for family stability and independence. These important support help parents deal with the serious issues that create unsafe conditions for their children – and as Differential Response continues to roll out across the state will help keep more children safely at home and out of foster care. The CW program is a good example of planning, implementation and monitoring that we should all follow.

Looking at all the work above, I think you’d have to agree that independence means something very real to the employees of DHS. It’s not an abstract idea – it’s our mission in action. I appreciate all that you’re doing to help people in your community live as independently as possible.

Have a great week!

~Erinn

What did I miss? Is there something going on right now that you want to make sure we also recognize? Let me know.

​​​
  
6/30/2014
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel and Equity and Multicultural Services Director Lydia Muñiz

 
Hello DHS,
 
Wednesday, July 2, is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act, along with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act in 1968, helped establish the foundation for equality among all Americans. Together, these three laws banned discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which added protection for people with disabilities, was influenced by the Civil Rights Act, Of course, the Act also has influenced the national movement to end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, too.
 
You can see why the law is usually called the “landmark” Civil Rights Act of 1964.
 
But for all its promise and influence on history, the goal of ending discrimination, unequal treatment and inequity still has not been achieved. There have been improvements – sometimes uneven and sometimes short-lived -- but there is still so much that needs to be done to achieve the dream of the 1964 law. The one thing that remains true is the eternally optimistic spirit of believing that we can each do our part to continue working toward creating an community of equity, respect and acceptance for each other.
 
Back in his 2013 State of the State address, Governor Kitzhaber talked about his vision of prosperity that would create opportunity for individuals representing every community in Oregon. He talked about giving every Oregonian a shot at the American Dream, and our individual and collective responsibility to be certain that that Oregon's prosperity reaches all Oregonians. The line from his speech that really struck a chord was this: Oregon will not be a great place for any of us to live until it is a great place for all of us to live.
 
For us here at DHS, the legacy is best shown in our Core Values of Respect and Service Equity – and our job, fifty years after the “landmark” words of the Civil Rights Act, is to make our Core Values a reality through our actions, our work and our day-to-day customer service with our clients and each other.
 
Have a great week, and we encourage you to watch a brief excerpt from President Johnson’s speech before he signed the law​. His words are as true today as they were in 1964.
 
~Erinn and Lydia
 
  
6/23/2014

​Two weeks ago, I shared a message with you about something I’ve been calling “Know Your Why” as a way for us to think more deeply and thoughtfully about our work here at DHS. I shared the “Know Your Why” statements that my Exec Team came up with, and I asked you all to read them. I also asked you to share your thoughts with me about your own “Know Your Why” statements. Thanks for the responses, and here are just a few examples:

Michael Mallorie said, “Wow, what a great opening to help draw folks into thinking about their WHY. I have watched the Simon Sinek presentation you referred to, and I agree it is very empowering. Maybe a good follow up would be sending out a link to the Sinek and encourage folks to watch the whole thing.” See the link at the bottom of this message.

Jenny Boyle said, “This is a powerful message. Thank you for sharing. I usually skim and delete, (sorry!), but this one really caught me. I’m wondering how case managers could use the phrase, “I believe..” with TANF participants, instead of “you are required…”

Julie LaChappelle said, “I wanted to add to the “Update IT Systems” a part about using data to inform how we service with evidence based practices rather than anecdotal information.  If we are truly moving from an intuitive based system (at least in child welfare) to an information based system, then normalizing the use of data in every aspect of the work is important.”

Barbara Mahnu said, “This message really resonates because, as a team charged with a major IT project for an enterprise-wide system for case management, the WHYs were a major topic quite recently. To begin one work session, we started with Simon Sinek’s “Know Your Why” TEDTalk (one of my favorites).”

Jessica Soltesz sent me a PowerPoint that she said was her WHY for Long-Term Care 3.0. I’ve attached that one to this message, so you can see it, too.

Chuck Dunn said, “With so much information flowing through the organization- repeating critical themes is helpful to me. I have been struck recently by the errors uncovered in the GM investigation - one of the cultural issues GM employees revealed was what they called the “GM Nod”- nodding in agreement with no intention of following through- all levels.”

Clayton Rees said,” Why ask outsiders for inside information? We are used to asking “insiders”, i.e. those we work with, to help us with questions about resources to better serve our clients. Too often we don’t recognize “outsiders”, i.e. those who serve our clients in some other capacity, as a resource to answer our question(s) or provide needed information to help us better serve our clients. With the implementation of Community Care Organizations, CCO’s, does that provide yet an additional, collective, resource that would allow both DHS and the CCO’s to better serve mutual clients, i.e. collaborate?  Are there other “outsiders” who we may not recognize as potential resources that could help us achieve better outcomes? Just a thought.”

Shaunia Scales said, ”I have to say I love this "Know your why" concept. I strongly feel that we don't work in social services for the pay or benefits, we work here for the people, we work here to make a difference, or because at some point in our lives we have needed help, and now want to be able to pay it forward. I work on the Modernization team, so the statements about Modernizing Service Delivery Transformation and Updating IT Systems is my world. I agree with what the statements said but there is a piece that I feel strongly about that I am not seeing there. That is -- we live in a world with amazing technology that can do some remarkable and astounding things, but what it can't do is be human. We also live in a world where money is tight, resources are highly sought after, and people expect more- more efficiency, more transparency, more respect, and more empathy. The only way we can meet this need is by leveraging technology to do what is does best, so we can free up our human potential do to what it does best.”

Lani Norona-Raines said, “Noting the complexity of the issues addressed, condensing these "Know Your Why" answers into single-sentence, concise statements presents a daunting challenge. However, single-sentence statements might be more thought provoking and more effective as motivational tools. Think of advertising slogans and our own one-word Core Values. When people ask me why I work for the DHS/State of Oregon, this is my answer: I work for the Department of Human Services because I believe in helping others, and I believe in the fundamental principal of government of the people, for the people, by the people."

Wise words from these employees, and I received several other comments, too. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond, and if you haven’t sent me your thoughts yet, please do.   Have a great week and Know Your Why!
 
~Erinn
 
As Michael suggested, here’s the link to the full TED Talk by Simon Sinek, and I encourage you to find time to watch “the whole thing.” It’s pretty inspiring! It’s called “Start with Why” and runs about 18 minutes.

  
6/13/2014
Hello DHS,

Governor Kitzhaber said in a statement this week, “My heart is heavy after learning of this morning’s tragic events at Reynolds High School. Today Oregon hurts as we try to make sense of a senseless act of violence.”

Like all of you, my heart has been aching -- for this family and for every individual and family that has been impacted by this tragedy and other school shootings across the nation.

At the vigil this week, the Governor was interviewed by a local TV crew, and he said something that really hit home for me. He said we need to move beyond the sensationalism of this event – the constant news coverage and social media chatter – to ask the deeper questions of why these things happen and what we can do to prevent them from happening again.

We need to move beyond the sensationalism to get to the deeper issues. Think about that.

What I think about is how our work here at DHS deals with those deeper issues, fundamental issues of health, safety and independence for the people we serve. Our clients and customers come to us for assistance, advice, resources and all types of other supports to help them address the serious issues they face each day – physical, emotional, large and small, but they are all serious. Some are sensational issues, and some are day-to-day challenges.

This week and in the coming weeks and months, we are working with Emilio’s family in Portland. Our staff in Multnomah County has been extraordinary in their caring and expertise. I’ve expressed my appreciation to them, and I wanted to share that appreciation with you all, too.

I don’t believe we’ll ever really make sense of this – or any -- senseless act of violence.

What I am confident we can do is to continue to serve our clients and customers in the best ways we know how, in line with our Core Values and each of our personal commitments to serve. I am proud to work with you in service to Oregon’s children, youth, adults and families.

Make time to hug the ones closest to you.

~Erinn

  
6/10/2014
DHS is an agency that exists for a high purpose -- working to achieve safety, health and independence for those we serve. And most of us who come to work here also have a personal "why" behind our motivation in the work -- a child with a disability, an older person's dignity in their final years, an individual experiencing homelessness, a young person's opportunity to be the first in their family to graduate, and the list goes on.

As we work on some pretty significant and transformative agendas across programs in DHS, I’ve been asking people to get back in touch with both your personal and the collective "WHY." I have been calling this effort “Know Your Why,” and I think it’s a good way for all of us to think more deeply and thoughtfully about our efforts to inspire ourselves and our systems to continuously improve our work and our services.
 
Last month, I challenged my Executive Team to come up with “Know Your Why” statements about our major initiatives, and it wasn’t always an easy ask. We found that while we are used to thinking at a high level about the "why", we are not as used to thinking about the "why" within the context of change. I encourage you to take a look at the results​.
 
Do their "Know Your Why" statements match with your thinking? Should those statements be revised, rewritten or adjusted to better inspire and motivate? What’s your "Know Your Why" statement about your own job? Let me know what you think – and why you think so -- and I'll share them in a future message.
 
Have a great week.
 
~Erinn
 
I wanted to share a little bit of a presentation I saw on YouTube of a TED Talk by Simon Sinek. He gives a fantastic example of knowing your why. Here’s a transcript of one section:
 
Simon Sinek: In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the Mall of Washington, DC. to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in pre-civil rights America. In fact some of his ideas were bad but he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and made it their own and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day, at the right time to hear him speak. How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed. And it wasn’t about black versus white. Twenty five percent of the audience was white.
 
Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by man and not until all the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws that are made by a higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happens that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. 
 
We follow him not for him, but for ourselves. And by the way, he gave the I Have a Dream speech not the I Have a Plan speech. Because there are leaders and then there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead inspire us, whether they are individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why?” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them. 

  
5/23/2014
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." -- John F. Kennedy

 

Hello DHS,

Monday, May 26, is Memorial Day -- one of our most respected and solemn holidays.

Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was originally called, was first observed on May 30, 1868 as a day to lay flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday’s name was later changed to Memorial Day. In 1971, it became a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

As I do each year, I encourage everyone to take time to remember and honor the brave men and women who gave so much to defend the values and freedom that we all cherish. It is also a day to pay tribute to the dedication and sacrifice of their families and loved ones, and it is a day to pray for the safe return of those still serving far away from home.

Finally, I would like to thank all those DHS staff who have served our country and to those with family members serving today.

Many Oregon communities have local Memorial Day celebrations planned, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to have a great holiday weekend and support these local events, too.

~ Erinn

 

Two names will be added to the Afghan-Iraqi Freedom Memorial on the grounds of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, 700 Summer Street in Salem, Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. The names of Army Spc. John Pelham of Beaverton, killed in Afghanistan on Feb. 12 last year, and Pfc. Cody Patterson of Philomath, also killed in Afghanistan last year on Oct. 6, will be added to the memorial. Senator Jeff Merkley will speak at the event.

Also see other 2014 Memorial Day Events.  

 

  
5/19/2014

Hello DHS,

It was about three months ago that I shared our internal and external customer service results with you all, and it’s time for an update. As part of our Quarterly Business Review (QBR) which is the place where as a leadership team in this agency we track outcomes and what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we’ve continued to include the external and internal set of customer surveys, as well as our own DHS employee engagement survey.

A big focus we all have is looking at what we do and how we get results for people – an important part that if often overlooked is HOW we work with people to get things done. That’s really what I mean by customer service. It's the Golden Rule – treating other people how we want to be treated -- and one of the most important things we can do is to make people feel they’ve been treated with respect. Today, I have good news for everyone. Our customer service and employee engagement survey results are up over last quarter in all areas.

At our QBR last week, here’s what was reported:

  • 85% of DHS customers rated our service as good or excellent, an increase from last quarter. These are the people who are in need of our assistance and come into our branch offices, call us on the phone and send us e-mails. They said their satisfaction with our service was overwhelmingly good or excellent. In addition, 84% said that they were felt they’d been treated with dignity and respect, that they felt good about their experience with us.
  • In terms of our internal survey, that’s the one that measures how well we are serving each other, our results showed that 79% of folks rated their service as good or excellent. That’s an increase, too. That also means that we recognize that we have customers for our services both inside the agency, as well as outside. Central Office staff are doing a pretty good job helping each other and supporting our field offices, and our field offices are doing a pretty good job in serving each other and Central Office.
  • Finally, a total of 77% of DHS staff answered that they felt a medium-high to high level of engagement as employees here at DHS. That is also up from last quarter! Employee engagement is important because it is a reflection that we really are living our Core Values and putting those values into action.

So WHAT we do is as important as HOW we do it, and our most recent survey results really show that’s embedded in our actions across the agency. That’s good news and good work! So great job everyone for outstanding customer service and engagement.

In an upcoming message, I want to talk with you all about something I’ve been calling “Know Your Why,” and that’s a funny term for a serious subject – keeping our focus on why we do the work we do. More on that at a later time.

Thanks for all you do – on my survey, I rate you all as Excellent and Engaged!

Take care.

~Erinn​​​

  
5/12/2014

Last week, the Oregonian newspaper published an editorial about DHS and the recent audit by the Secretary of State’s Office. (Putting the focus back on jobs at Department of Human Services, May 5). I wanted to share with you all my response to that op-ed, since I think it’s important to set the record straight. Here’s what was published on the Oregonlive website:

The Department of Human Services Excelled During the Recession

Your recent editorial makes the point that the Oregon Department of Human Services should turn the focus back to helping Oregonians on government assistance find jobs. We agree,and we are already making progress. For the first time since 2008, we are placing about 1,000 job seekers per month into employment on a regular basis.That’s a change from the dark days of the recession.

Oregonians should expect a lot from their Human Services agency, and during the nation's worst recession on record, we delivered. With reduced program and service levels, we worked on the front line of the economic crisis, serving more than one million Oregonians each year -- helping them feed their families, get access to health care, pay their bills and keep their children out of foster care.

With demand for services increasing by 80% and not enough staff available to keep up with the increased demand, we created more streamlined, efficient business practices that delivered life-saving benefits to people even faster, going from a nine-day turnaround time to same day service for thousands of Oregonians coming in our doors each month.

With more families in distress than ever before, DHS (working with other partners in the community) focused on keeping children safe and keeping families together. But our work didn't just save lives and preserve families, it provided more than $90 million per month in federal revenue throughout our state -- helping to keep more private businesses, like grocery stores, health and child care providers, in operation during tough economic times.

Oregon DHS did what it was created to do during the great recession - we responded and met more people's needs than ever before. While we may not have been able to do everything we wanted to do during those four years of economic crisis, our accomplishments - and those of our partners in this tough work - are something Oregonians should be proud of.

The Oregonian is right about one thing: With the economy turning around, the time is now to dedicate all our energy on helping Oregonians get back to work. And as we do that, we shouldn't settle for just any work - but work that helps families support themselves so that they no longer need government assistance.

Knowing what I know about the people across this state who have dedicated their lives to the most vulnerable among us, I have no doubt that with this opportunity of economic recovery, we will do what we always do: We will rise to the occasion in service to Oregon children and their families.

~Erinn

​​​
  
5/5/2014
Hello DHS,
 
It is Public Service Recognition Week in honor of the millions of employees of the federal, state and local governments of the United States. I especially want to recognize the important contributions of Oregon public employees and honor the diverse men and women who meet the needs of our state through their work at all levels of government. Oregon is a great state, and public employees contribute to that greatness because of the knowledge, skills and experience of the individuals who work in public service.
 
This week gives me an opportunity to personally express my appreciation to every DHS employee. I know that in public service there is so little recognition for what you do, and it’s important to me that you know how much I appreciate you and your work. Your work makes a difference, and your daily, individual commitment is what makes this organization successful. Every day of the year, you work to provide vital services to Oregonians who depend on DHS to help keep them safe, healthy and independent.
 
You continue to put the needs of our clients, families and communities at the top of your daily “to do” list. Thank you.
 
In addition, I want to encourage you to consider how you will recognize the good work of your co-workers and team members this week and beyond. Simple gestures can be powerful, whether it’s a friendly email acknowledging great work, organizing an office get-together, or even an in-person thank you. To help you in your efforts, DAS has created a “shout out tool kit.” I know many offices already have a version of this idea, but for those who don’t, please view a series of printouts you can use to build a space that encourages co-workers to share thanks and appreciation.
 
Thank you and have a great recognition week!
 
~Erinn
  
4/28/2014
Hello DHS,
 
Last week I had the chance to speak to DHS staff from across the state at Leadership Diversity Forum, sponsored by our Office of Equity and Multicultural Services. It was an excellent opportunity to hear report-outs on how we’re doing with diversity, equality and equity efforts in our offices. It’s important work, and that importance is reflected in the fact that Service Equity is one of our Core Values. Over the past three years, I’ve talked a lot about Service Equity – what it is, what it means to DHS and to the people and families we serve, and how we are working to ensure it’s in place. Today I want to take just a minute to talk about WHY Service Equity is such an important goal.
 
I know, I know. Many of you are already thinking, “Erinn, it’s the right thing to do.” I agree with you. I also believe that there is a business case for Service Equity that we all need to be able to understand and articulate.
 
Last week at the Forum I talked about these three compelling business reasons in support of Service Equity: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Customer Satisfaction:
 
  • To be effective in changing and improving the lives of the people we serve, the services we offer – and the services we purchase on behalf of our clients – need to be responsive to individual customer needs.
  • To deliver services efficiently, we need to be intentional about removing barriers to service and building relationships of trust and confidence with every person we serve.
  • To provide excellent customer service, we need to ensure that every individual we serve feels respected and valued in our interactions with them.
 
Please PAUSE for a moment and consider how customizing your service to meet the needs of those you serve results in better, more efficient results and more satisfied DHS customers. We’ve said that Service Equity is built on our existing Core Value of Respect, but we can add Stewardship to the list, too. There is a business case, in addition to the moral one, for doing the right thing. When I look across the agency, I see many employees who understand both reasons for doing the right thing – and who act to make Service Equity a reality in their local office and their local community.
 
Thank you for all you do to deliver results for every Oregonian we serve!
 
~Erinn
  
4/21/2014
  
4/14/2014
Hello DHS,
 
This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and for many years Oregon and other states relied on bringing children into foster care as the best answer to keep them safe when they had been victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents or other adults in the home. Today, I want to share a guest op-ed Lois Day is submitting to newspapers across the state for Child Abuse Prevention Month and to highlight the new work Oregon is doing to ensure children are safe and families are strong and supported. Thank you and have a great week.
~Erinn
 
- - - -
Child Abuse Prevention Month: Support Services Protect Children & Help Build Strong Families Message from Lois Ann D ay, Child Welfare Director, Oregon Department of Human Services April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  It is always an important recognition for the state Child Welfare system. Changes in our system are enhancing the options available for interacting with families, and I am energized to talk about a different message.
 
Oregonians are often surprised to learn that neglect of children, failure of parents to meet children’s basic needs, is the most prevalent reason families come to the attention of child welfare. In Oregon, neglect is statutorily defined as abuse and it is the largest category of founded allegations of abuse.
 
Specifically, neglect is defined as a failure of a child’s caretaker to adequately protect a child from harm. It is the inability of parents to meet their children’s basic needs. Neglect can include an ongoing pattern of serious neglect by a parent or caregiver, and the pattern can often be corrected only to repeat over the same or new concerns. When it reoccurs, it is most often a result of parents being unable to access services that would help them out of the situation that is challenging their efforts to parent. More than 60% of all incidents of child abuse in Oregon are because of neglect or threat of harm.
 
Neglect is most often accompanied by several risk factors: extreme poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness of parent/child. Neglect is harmful for children and families, it causes trauma that has lasting impact on children that is increasingly difficult to mitigate.  And that accumulated trauma stresses the scarce resources of the state.
 
We must ask ourselves: isn’t there a better way to engage families struggling with these issues?  Can we intervene with families earlier?  Can we actually engage with families in a way that empowers them to identify their needs and take steps to ensure their children’s safety and continue to parent them while addressing the issues that brought them to the attention of the child welfare system? Can we implement a child welfare system that supports parents to make decisions that keep their children at home rather than placement in foster care?
 
We can and we are.  Oregon is in the process of implementing a Differential Response model that can transform child welfare's engagement with families and in many cases (with the right support services), keep children safely at home. During the 2013 session, the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kitzhaber took up the challenge, too. The final budget provided an increase of $92.7 million in total funds in Child Welfare programs to further earlier assistance for families.
 
Part of the investment was $23.7 million in total funds for statewide implementation of Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families programs. These programs, created by the legislature in 2011, are statutorily designed to provide a broad array of services to support families and keep children safely at home. Concrete supports are needed to address the underlying issues that lead to neglect.  These supports include services that meet families’ basic needs, such as food, housing, transportation and employment. In more advanced cases, the need is for services such as drug/alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, parenting support and skill-building.  Providing these services in a culturally appropriate manner enhances the family’s chances at successfully addressing their challenges.
 
Across the state, we are working in collaboration with local communities to enhance the service array. These services are to specifically address needs of children and families who come to the attention of Child Welfare through a report of abuse or neglect.  Examples of the types of services communities are putting in place are family meeting facilitation; trauma and therapeutic services; enhanced family visitation; youth transition and mentoring services; intensive in-home services; parent navigators; parenting education and classes; parent mentoring and coaching; relief nurseries; housing stability assistance; emergency and short term housing supports; and employment assistance.
 
In May, Child Welfare will begin providing a new route for families to connect to these services. Differential Response is a redesign of the child welfare system's initial response for families with a screened in report of abuse or neglect. With a differentiated response system, there will be two tracks of response to families. Regardless of the track of response, all families involved with child welfare will receive a comprehensive child safety assessment by child welfare staff.  However, some families, where they are able to keep their children safe, will be offered services without opening a case with child welfare.
 
Just as every family is unique, the department's approach needs to be flexible enough to serve the family’s needs. Our design includes specific screening criteria to determine the best response to assess families and increase their success in keeping parenting their children safely at home.
 
Families can more successfully resolve issues when they take an active role in crafting the solution and where they have the opportunity to partner with child welfare and their community in the identification of services and supports needed. Our goal, and the goal of all communities, is to keep children safe and increase the strength and resiliency of families. During Child Abuse Prevention Month, we want to recognize the essential support families and children have received from Oregon’s Legislators and Governor Kitzhaber.  We are particularly grateful to have the opportunity to undertake this important work.
 
~Lois
  
4/7/2014
To: All DHS Staff and Stakeholders
Message from DHS Director Erinn Kelley-Siel
 
"Never get tired of doing little things for others. For sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart." Ida Azhari
 
Hello DHS,
 
The sudden losses that our agency has experienced the last few weeks have served as a reminder to me of how precious life is and how it important it is to take the time to encourage and appreciate our colleagues, friends, and family while they are still with us.
 
In honor of the many little things Carolyn Ross did that have had a huge impact on the lives of people throughout this agency, Human Resources staff have created a Gratitude Box to collect stories and memories that can be sent to Carolyn's family.
 
I am hoping that this week we ALL participate in an intentional effort to encourage one another. I have had the privilege of visiting almost every office in this state and I know that many of our work units include recognition and encouragement as part of their regular course of business. I also know that those efforts can be tough to sustain, especially when things get busy.
 
So, if you would be so kind, please take some time this week to recognize your co-workers for who they are and what they do each and every day. Be specific and, of course, genuine -- and your statements of gratitude or recognition will have an even greater impact! This is not just a “feel good effort.” There is research that documents that a ratio of anywhere from 3-6 positive interactions for every negative one is needed for employees in the workforce to flourish. And, when we feel good about ourselves and our work, morale is higher and we are more productive.
 
So, whether you participate in this effort because you believe that kindness is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another, or because you want to get more work done -- my thanks to all of you for giving your days at work in service to others.
 
Take good care.
 
~Erinn
  
3/31/2014
  
3/10/2014
  
3/3/2014

Hello DHS,

As the Director, I take my responsibilities very seriously. Two of my most important responsibilities are the protection of vulnerable children, and the protection of the confidential, personal and private information of Oregonians.

Oregon state law and federal laws, passed and signed by elected representatives, set out very clear requirements for the confidentiality of information in child welfare cases -- and other DHS cases, too. The purpose of these laws is to ensure that the highly personal and sensitive information of the individuals involved is released only when parties to the case agree to make their own information public.

There are times when the public has a great desire to know more, and the laws make exceptions in certain circumstances. A good example is the CIRT process – that is, the Critical Incident Response Team process that happens when a child who is known to DHS is seriously injured or killed by abuse or neglect. In those tragic circumstances, Oregon law requires the state to release information about the agency’s actions with the child and family.

Nearly all of the rest of the information we receive and gather is protected – and it should be. We understand the delicate balance between the public's desire to know and the need to protect confidential information, but we follow the laws of this state and nation regarding the protection of the privacy, especially of children who have already been victimized by adults in their lives.

As a state agency, we have incredible power to change lives, and I am committed to using that power with a light touch and with reverence for the privacy of children and families we serve.

Thank you for all you do. Have a great week!

~ Erinn

  
2/18/2014

Hello DHS,

It’s been about six months since we made the decision to slow down the roll-out of Oregon Benefits Online, our web-based system for SNAP benefits. That decision allowed us to concentrate our support on the Fast Track access to the Oregon Health Plan – and assist OHA with the processing of paper applications and other essential tasks to help them at this crucial time. On that note, in case you haven’t already heard, because of the joint OHA/DHS effort through Fast Track enrollment, at least 123,000 more Oregonians now have health insurance. That number continues to grow and is life-changing for those individuals -- and deserves to be acknowledged.

As for Modernization, the point of this message is to give you a sense of where the initiative stands today. Remember, I said in a Director’s Message back in 2012 that “Modernization is about more than technology.” It was true then, and it is even truer today. Modernization is a broad, multi-year effort to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of DHS services in a variety of ways, including activities like:

  • Redesigning and streamlining business processes to improve customer service;
  • Leveraging data analytics to anticipate and implement policy and program changes that meet the ever-changing needs of our customers; and
  • Implementing changes in technology to maximize results for customers.

Let me start this update with the topic of technology, because that’s where we left off with the slow down on our automated benefits application. As you know, Oregon Benefits Online development work was put on hold in September, 2013. That “hold” remains in place as we conduct an internal business evaluation of our options and next steps with regard to the Oracle framework. There’s not much more to say: OBO is temporarily on hold, we’re examining our options to move forward, and will keep you posted on next steps. That being said, in keeping with the legislative direction coming out of the 2013 session, we have begun the planning process for development of a more holistic, online case management system. The core premise for the Case Management Online (CMO) project is to create technology that will enable human services case managers to access information and services across programs for the benefit of customers and clients.  DHS is currently planning and defining the scope of the first phase of this project, which will only include APD.  This is exciting work with huge potential to improve service coordination, reduce duplication and enhance the customer experience with our systems. Watch for more information in the coming weeks.

This “pause” in the roll-out of new technology has also given us an opportunity to redouble our efforts around service delivery transformation, and I am happy to report that there is some exciting work moving forward on that front. For example, the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) team is currently analyzing how we handle customer paperwork and evaluating the idea of “paperless offices,” with electronic customer/case records and the potential for improved service, workflow, time and financial savings. Other initiatives from CI sheets or branch office pilot projects are also underway which are also focused on various aspects of service delivery improvement and transformation. These include telecommuting and outstationing, central call center, Skype/Lync remote connections, and case management pilots, just to name a few.

It’s been an incredibly busy six months since we put the brakes on in our Oregon Benefits Online roll-out, but I want to assure you that the our vision for Modernization is still moving forward. That vision translates into the reality of better outcomes for the individuals and families we serve and greater safety, health and independence for the state of Oregon.

Have a great week.

~ Erinn & Trina

  
2/3/2014
Hello DHS,
 
Before we get too far along in the work of 2014, I want to be sure to take a moment to recognize and celebrate the incredible progress of 2013. Last year was especially important because it set the course for the agency for the years to come. I believe 2013 will be remembered as the year we began to implement the vision we defined as the new DHS. That vision is based on a bottom-to-top management system, rooted in LDMS and continuous improvement, based on data and outcomes, and monitored by our Quarterly Business Reviews at the program and agency level.
 
The 2013 Legislature, with strong support from the Governor, made strategic investments in our Breakthrough Initiatives (most notably: Differential Response, Employment, Long-Term Services and Supports and Modernization) to improve the results we all want for the individuals and families we serve. Finally, on a personal note, I’ve heard from so many of you about the increased sense of empowerment and leadership you feel in your own ability to identify barriers and correct issues and problems in your local work groups. That’s a very positive sign that the vision we set is becoming the reality we see in action.
 
Many of you have already received a comprehensive list of accomplishments from your individual programs – and many more of you will be getting information from your program’s leadership in the days to come. For every area of the agency, there is an impressive body of work to showcase! Today, I want to share just a few of the highlights that stood out for me:
 
  • Let’s start with Information Technology: Improved bandwidth for branch offices and here in Salem, PC replacements in progress across the state and successful conversion from Blackberry devices to iPhones.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Continued of Closing the Employment Gap; increased the numbers of adults and youth who secured employment; and extended Project Access to work with tribal programs on youth transition.
  • Aging and People with Disabilities: Negotiated successfully a state plan amendment with CMS to implement the Community First Choice Option (K Plan), which helps Oregonians achieve well-being and independence through service options that respect choice and preserve dignity; diverted/ transitioned nearly 1,800 individuals from nursing facilities back into their own home or community based care settings; Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) is on track to be statewide by 2015, and approximately 60,000 Oregonians called the ADRC and 100,000 people visited the website last year; expanded Home Care Commission’s online registry to serve I/DD and mental health consumers, families, representatives and personal support workers; and developed infrastructure to support HB2216, a bill that reauthorized the nursing facility provider assessment and provides incentives for nursing facilities to operate more efficiently. 
  • Self Sufficiency Programs: Created the EBT Replacement Unit, tested and now in use statewide; the Legislature approved the plan to convert 167 HSS3’s into 162 Case Managers; employment placements topped 1,000 twice for the first time since 2007; along with APD/AAA offices, branches and Central Office provided essential support to OHP 2014 expansion.
  • Child Welfare Programs: Legislature approved 110 positions for field staff and an additional nine ICWA positions; completed design work and launched staged implementation of Differential Response, a redesign of Oregon’s “front door” to the child welfare system; reduced overdue assessments by 30%; provided renewed training in Oregon Safety Model; and made significant progress in statewide implementation of Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families.
  • Office of Developmental Disabilities Services: Began implementation of the State K plan and changed associated rules to ensure better access to Medicaid- funded services; connected 5,000 people through family network organizations, helping families with I/DD to provide support and the opportunity to share life experiences together; in collaboration with the Home Care Commission, developed the STEPS training specific to the I/DD population; launched a successful Facebook page to enhance communications with providers, families, consumers and advocates; and refocused resources in the Stabilization and Crisis Unit (formerly SOCP) to better serve individuals through the crisis period and into stabilization so they can successfully return to an appropriate community placement.
  • Employment First Initiative: In collaboration with Oregon Department of Education and other community partners, worked to implement the requirements of the Executive Order; formed a statewide Stakeholder Policy Group to make recommendations and review the State’s progress; developed an Outreach and Awareness Plan that will help explain the benefits of employment and address concerns individuals with I/DD or their families have in pursuing community-based employment; developed a Career Development Plan policy and process to help clearly identify an individual’s employment goals and the supports needed; initiated training designed to expand service capacity and established core competencies for the basis of ongoing trainings; and began advanced data collection and reporting efforts so more information is available to monitor progress in making recommendations that further improve services and advance the goals.
  • CFO & Office of Budget & Finance: Developed improved forecast and reporting models for a variety of DHS, OHA and Shared Services programs; created the Workforce Management and Consulting Unit; implemented payroll system improvements, like e-paystub and expanded direct deposit; and put forth one of the best budget documents in years, according to one Legislator.
  • DHS Human Resources: The Background Check Unit did 125,539 checks for both DHS and OHA (117,000 of those were just for DHS); the Aspiring Leadership Facilitators graduated 3 classes of ALP; the Records Team assisted with the OHA/Cover Oregon hiring of temps; the Recruitment team did over 1,618 recruitments for DHS; and our workforce strategy was instrumental in our ability to fill positions across DHS programs.
 
These are only a few examples! Thank you for the work you’ve done and the work you are doing. As we move forward into 2014, our goals are to continue the work already underway to ensure we achieve the results we want, and we also will work to build on our progress with an increased emphasis on customer service, community engagement and service equity.
 
I am proud of what we have accomplished together – and I am proud of every individual who is doing this important work. Your dedication and commitment to the mission is a daily inspiration.
 
Have a great week.
 
~Erinn
 
 
  
1/27/2014

Hello DHS,

I haven’t done one of the Did You Know? messages for a while, but today is a good opportunity to pass one along. Did you know that DHS operates 24-hour residential programs for people who are in crisis and have exhausted all other resources within the state? It’s true – the program used to be known as SOCP (State Operated Community Program), but that old name has changed to better reflect their focus. The new name, Stabilization and Crisis Unit (SACU), supports the goal of serving these individuals through the crisis period and into stabilization so that they can successfully return to an appropriate community placement.

SACU consists of 23 residential homes from Portland to Eugene, with a total capacity of 108, serving 98 adults and 10 children. This includes people with developmental disabilities coming out of the Oregon State Hospital, correctional systems, and from crisis situations where counties and private providers cannot meet the needs of the individual, to ensure their health and safety. This is an ever-changing population displaying more aggressive, complex behaviors with a younger clientele. As you might expect, this can be a challenging population for our staff to serve.

Even though the name has changed, the program has not changed its mission, vision, goals or services. SACU will continue its focus on supporting people in community-based settings and enabling them to return to less intensive service levels as quickly as possible. It is addressing a changing population that involves more behaviorally challenging clients, moving from the medical clients for whom the system was originally created. Those medically fragile clients with I/DD are now mostly served through community-based private providers. SACU will continue to be a safety net for Oregon’s most vulnerable, intensive, medically and behaviorally challenged individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) and to provide support when no other community-based option is available to them. 

I recently visited some of the SACU facilities in the Salem area with interim DD Director Trisha Baxter, and I would like to thank the leadership and staff at SACU for their past and ongoing efforts to support the individuals they serve through crisis and stabilization. The opportunity to see this important work close up provides important context for me as we work to improve services today and begin planning for the 2015 budget.

I especially want to recognize the new SACU Director, Jana McLellan, for her work to strengthen supports for clients and SACU staff and managers. This is difficult work, and Jana is a true leader in the efforts. Thank you.

Next week, I will be providing everyone with our annual “Year in Review” recap of progress in all DHS programs and services, so stay tuned for that.

Have a great week everyone.

~Erinn

  
1/17/2014
  
1/13/2014
Hello DHS and happy 2014 to everyone!
 
Let me begin the work of the New Year by looking at a quote from the acclaimed leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity. It is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and can be overcome by the actions of human beings.”
 
A big part of our mission is working to reduce poverty and its effects in our state, which is why I’m excited to let you know that the conversation about poverty reduction and wage gain in Oregon is getting attention at the highest levels in the public and private sectors.
 
In December, I attended the Oregon Business Summit meeting in Portland, where the Governor and other Legislative and business leaders spoke. At the summit, the Path to Prosperity report (attached PDF) was presented. The report makes clear that while Oregon is beginning to see the economy improve, there are still too many residents living in poverty -- including nearly 25% of the state’s children.
 
The Path to Prosperity report sets out four key actions the state should take to reconnect Oregonians to the state’s improving economy:
 
  1. Create anti-poverty programs for specific populations, cultures and local labor markets. For example, the report states that effective poverty reduction in rural areas, for people with disabilities, and for communities of color will require different approaches.

  2. Improve education, vocational training and workforce initiatives to provide skills needed for contemporary family-wage jobs. This set of recommendations is very consistent with the work DHS is involved in as part of the workforce system redesign.

  3. Build an economy that offers more paths out of poverty by focusing on increasing the number of “middle class” jobs. The report highlights that income disparity in Oregon is growing, and that most of the new jobs being created are actually low-wage jobs that make it difficult for people to move from poverty to prosperity.

  4. Finally, state legislators and others (including DHS) need to re-think what an adequate safety net should be. The report states that Oregon is overdue for a conversation about what to do about the fact that recipients of safety net services, like cash assistance and housing subsidies, usually subsist on incomes well below the federal poverty level. It also highlights the fact that our policies, as currently designed, actually create disincentives for people to move off of public assistance.
 
The Oregon business community, through the Business Plan, has set a goal of reducing Oregon’s poverty rate by 10% by the year 2020. It’s clear that to achieve that goal, the public and private sectors are going to have to work more closely together than ever before. It’s also clear that this effort is going to challenge all of us to think about and do our work differently. I am looking forward to that challenge. As this action-oriented, partnership agenda continues to develop, the year ahead will see a continued focus on employment for DHS. For most of the people we serve, employment is critical to safety, health and independence.
 
Of course, as the Path to Prosperity report so clearly points out, there is much more to do. But as we tackle those challenges together, let me take this opportunity to thank you for the work you do in the fight to improve lives and reduce poverty and its effects of children, youth, adults and families.
 
Have a great week.
 
~Erinn
 
PS: Last week, the nation also marked the 50th anniversary President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of war on poverty. Here are a few links to news stories about that landmark event:
 
  
1/6/2014
Hello DHS,
 
I wanted to make sure you all saw last week's message from acting OHA Director Tina Edlund. You can read the full version.
 
She said:
The New Year brings good news to more than 130,000 Oregonians who are now enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan. And so far an estimated 18,000 Oregonians have enrolled through Cover Oregon for private coverage beginning January 1. I think by the time we are finished we could have close to 150,000 total January enrollees, which is just about equal to the population of Salem.
 
I know getting all these people enrolled has meant hard work and long hours for hundreds of people. Many OHA and DHS employees worked nights and weekends to make it happen. I want to thank them and also their families and friends who may have seen a little less of our staff than they would like over the holidays. They, too, should get credit for what was accomplished in Oregon in 2013.
 
In every part of Oregon today people are more secure economically and have access to health care that they didn’t have before. This is a historic accomplishment. And this accomplishment builds on the work we have done over the past few years to create the coordinated care model for better health, better care and lower costs.
 
Some of you may have seen a national study using 2008 information that was released earlier this week showing that when people gain Medicaid coverage there is increased emergency department use. The study was done using the Oregon Health Plan’s so-called “lottery” population. The story in Oregon today is a different one than five years ago and it points the direction for other states that are expanding their Medicaid programs. With the coordinated care model we believe we can mitigate or even neutralize any upticks in unnecessary hospital use and increase primary care use. Look at what we’ve seen so far: Our most recent Health System Transformation Report shows that through the coordinated care organizations, emergency department visits decreased by 9 percent from 2011 levels. Hospitalizations for congestive heart failure have dropped by 29 percent. Meanwhile, primary care visits for Oregonians served by coordinated care organizations increased 18 percent. 
 
Health care coverage isn’t enough. That’s why in Oregon we are taking the approach that if you provide the right care at the right time in the right place, you can create a more sustainable and successful health care system. I know we will get there.
 
PS: If you know of anyone who is new to the Oregon Health Plan and would like more information on how to use it, visit the resources page for new members.
 
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Have a great week!
 
~Erinn
 
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