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DHS news release

Dec. 15, 2006

Program contact: Jana Owens (503) 366-8330
Scappoose High School: Ed Reese (503) 704-7510
Media contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955

High school students celebrate everyday heroes: Columbia's foster parents

This holiday season, the greatest gifts won't be purchased or put on layaway. The gifts a foster family provides to an abused or neglected child are priceless.

"Foster care protects children who are not safe in their own homes," said Janna Owens, a foster care certifier in Columbia County. "For some children, it is literally life-saving."

In Columbia, there are about 100 foster homes. But many more are needed to serve the growing number of children coming into state care.

"We are actively recruiting for more foster homes in this area," said Owens. "And while the need for safe foster homes is on the rise, it's important not to forget the ongoing commitment and dedication of our existing foster parents."

In partnership with the 150-member Scappoose High School Natural Helpers Club, the Columbia child welfare office hosted a celebration for foster and adoptive parents, and their relatives and children on Wednesday. Members of the Helpers Club planned the event, did the decorations, and provided food, toys and entertainment to guests.


Columbia foster parents like Joann and Paulino Garza represent the dozens of families who open their hearts and homes to more than 200 children who have been maltreated and must be removed from their own homes so that they are safe and protected from further harm. The Garzas, who have been foster parents for three years, are also in the process of adopting.


"Our foster parents are the backbone of the child welfare system, providing the day-to-day support and care that is so critical to the well-being of the children and youth in the state's custody," said Owens.

According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, which oversees the state system:

  • In 2005, a total of 218 Columbia County children were served in foster care.
  • On any given day, there are 150 children in foster care.
  • For the third year, more children are coming into foster care than leaving. In 2005, 86 children entered foster care in Columbia while 70 exited.
  • At nearly 48 percent, alcohol and drug issues represent the largest single family problem when child abuse and neglect is present. Other stress factors contributing to founded abuse reports are parental involvement with law enforcement, domestic violence and unemployment.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, call 503-366-8330 or 800-342-6688.