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DHS news release

October 23, 2007

Contact: Ann Snyder, 503-945-5922


DHS announces retirement of child welfare leader; appoints interim replacement


The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced that Ramona Foley, assistant director for the Children, Adults and Families (CAF) Division, which oversees the state's child welfare, vocational rehabilitation and self-sufficiency programs, will be retiring later this year. Bryan Johnston, Salem-based attorney and former interim DHS director, has been appointed interim assistant director for CAF until a permanent replacement is selected.

Foley has led programs in Oregon since 1999 and brought many years' experience in child welfare practice to her work. Under her leadership, Oregon this year launched major changes to its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, including program improvements designed to achieve better outcomes for children and better employment opportunities for their families. Foley also laid the foundation for significant changes to Oregon's child welfare system through implementation this year of the "Oregon Child Safety Model," designed to improve the safety of children receiving child protective services and improve the department's ability to deliver consistent, best-practice child protective services to children and families throughout the state.

"Ramona has led CAF with a genuine concern for making children's lives better," said DHS Director Bruce Goldberg, M.D. "She brought tremendous expertise and compassion to our department. We will miss her."

Although Foley's retirement takes effect Dec. 31, 2007, her last day in the office will be Nov. 16. For the remainder of the year she will be taking vacation leave. Johnston will join DHS Nov. 19.

In addition to appointing Johnston as interim head of CAF, DHS today announced the appointment of an advisory committee of child and family advocates and partners who will work with Johnston to address a range of priority issues facing CAF. These include continuing the implementation of the TANF redesign and safety model, addressing staffing and workload issues facing the child welfare system, and recruiting a permanent assistant director for CAF.

Members of the Advisory Committee to the Interim Director include State Representative Tina Kotek (D-Portland); Marion County Circuit Judge Pamela Abernethy; President of the Oregon Foster Parents Association Don Darland; Sara Merten, a public policy consultant; Angela Sherbo, a supervising staff attorney for the Juvenile Rights Project; Barbara Casey, DHS child welfare caseworker and foster parent recruiter; and Deborah Martin, DHS child welfare supervisor.

"The work that Bryan and the members of this advisory committee will be doing is crucial to ensure that we continue to improve our ability to deliver the services Oregon's families and children need as we search for a permanent replacement," said Goldberg. "This is a highly qualified group who understand the needs of our clients. I anticipate they will provide excellent advice and direction for addressing the issues facing CAF.

"I am very grateful to Bryan for agreeing to step in at this critical time to help head CAF," added Goldberg. "His leadership will provide stability during this transition and will allow us to take the time we will need to find the most highly qualified person to permanently lead CAF."

Looking to build and improve on the foundation of the Safety Model and other initiatives under way to improve child welfare and foster care services, Goldberg also announced his intent to appoint two additional workgroups.

The first of those two workgroups, the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) Review Group, will be chaired by Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd. The workgroup will be charged with making recommendations to strengthen and improve the state's CIRT process. The workgroup will focus on the original intent of the CIRT protocol and lessons learned since it was implemented in 2004. The protocol was designed to increase the department's ability to respond immediately and accountably to sensitive child welfare incidents in the state. The CIRT Review Group is expected to issue its final recommendations to DHS by the end of January 2008.

The second workgroup, the Child Safety Workgroup, will be chaired by Executive Director of Children First for Oregon Robin Christian. This workgroup will be charged with developing an action plan for the state designed to keep all Oregon children safe and families strong. Specifically, the Child Safety Workgroup will be asked to prioritize recommendations that will improve family stability and reduce the number of child abuse and neglect victims in Oregon; reduce the number of abused children coming into foster care by improving in-home and relative supports for those children; and ensure that those children who do come into foster care live in safe, supportive and healthy environments where they can grow and thrive. The Child Safety Workgroup is expected to issue its final recommendations to DHS by May 2008.

"As a state we need to improve the health and well-being of all children, both those who are living at home and those in foster care," said Goldberg. "We must seek prevention and early intervention techniques to strengthen families to keep them healthy and intact, and at the same time we must guarantee that when a child does need state care, we are able to ensure that child's health and safety. These two workgroups will provide DHS with valuable assessments and recommendations to help make that happen."

DHS expects to finalize appointments to the CIRT Review Group and Child Safety Workgroup by the end of October. Both groups will include representation from and report to the state's Child Welfare Advisory Committee. The Child Safety Workgroup also will include representation from the State Commission on Children and Families, integrating that group's work and expertise around child abuse prevention.