DHS news release
May 11, 2005
Department of Human Services
Department of Human Services releases expert review of Oregon's child safety intervention system
National study identifies foundation of Oregon's system as sound; makes recommendations for improvements
(Salem, Ore.) – The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) today released a report conducted by the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (NRCCPS) that reviewed Oregon's child safety intervention practices and operations and made recommendations for overall improvements to Oregon's child welfare system.
Governor Ted Kulongoski called for an independent review in November 2004 following two high-profile cases in the Portland area that initiated Critical Incident Response Teams (CIRT) within eight days of each other. The review included looking at how decisions about child safety are made in Oregon's child welfare system.
The report compared the Oregon DHS Children, Adults and Families (CAF) safety intervention system to the national state of the art of Child Protective Services (CPS) safety intervention. Through interviews and onsite evaluations with DHS administration, the Governor's Office, Child Welfare Advisory Committee, CAF program staff, CIRT reviewers, field program managers, and staff focus groups, the NRCCPS identified nine challenges facing Oregon, seven safety intervention components, and nine recommendations for system improvements.
"The safety and health of Oregon's children is one of my top priorities and in order to achieve this goal we must ensure that our child welfare system has the policies and practices in place to protect the children in our care," Governor Ted Kulongoski said.
"The good news is that our foundation is strong, which is critical to our ability to move forward with the recommendations identified in this report. I know that DHS shares my commitment to putting the safety of children first and will use this report as a tool to continue making Oregon's child welfare system more accountable both to the citizens of Oregon--and to the children the system is charged to protect."
The report lists the following challenges facing Oregon's system: 1) methamphetamine; 2) workload demand; 3) local influence and determination; 4) staff configuration; 5) worker authority to remove children; 6) group decision making; 7) legal custody and in-home supervision; 8) threat of harm; 9) strengths and needs-based interventions.
The report identified seven components of Oregon's safety system as comparable to and consistent with practices at the national level. The components are: 1) policy; 2) procedure; 3) staff development; 4) supervision; 5) information systems; 6) program management; 7) quality assurance.
The report recommends, among other findings, that DHS:
develop standardized practices emphasizing child safety throughout all stages of a child welfare case;
improve training for child welfare workers by developing a procedures manual with clear instructions;
and remove legal representation duties from child welfare staff.
The report also recommended that the state address staff workload issues.
DHS Director Gary Weeks today appointed Ramona Foley, the assistant director for Children, Adults, and Families, to lead the implementation of the recommendations identified in the report. He also asked for a list of recommendations on how to expand involvement in strengthening child welfare services across the entire system.
"This report provides initial guidance on how best to strengthen Oregon's child welfare system, but it also identifies critical issues that need additional exploration," Weeks said. "I have also asked Ramona Foley to clarify these issues and deliver recommendations on how to involve our partner agencies and the courts in looking more broadly at how today's recommendations can affect the entire child welfare system."
Wayne Holder, of the NRCCPS, will present the national center's findings pertaining to Oregon's system to the House Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Child Welfare at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, May 12.
Note: You can download a PDF version of the full report here, and the Executive Summary here.