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DHS news release



Feb. 22, 2008


General contact: Greg W. Parker, 503-945-6955


Roadmap to child safety released
2008 Legislature's actions will give caseworkers more contact with children



Each day in Oregon 160 cases of possible child abuse are reported to the state Department of Human Services (DHS).


In order to ensure that these children remain safe and thriving, DHS commissioned the most comprehensive outside look ever undertaken of the state's child welfare system -- Child Welfare Staffing Study.


“This report gives us a roadmap to improve our care of Oregon's children,” said Bryan Johnston, Interim DHS Assistant Director for Children, Adults and Families. The study estimates that DHS is about 30 percent under capacity to meet federal standards for child safety.


The staffing study identifies 18 ways DHS could improve service to children. Adding caseworkers is one way to reduce workload. Other strategies include reducing non-case-related work, increasing standardization of best practices among offices, providing more training to caseworkers, and identifying ways to improve the recruitment and orientation processes for new caseworkers.


The study also found that federal and state regulatory changes have resulted in increased time spent by caseworkers on each child's case while simultaneously reducing the time caseworkers have available to spend with each child.


For instance, in 2007 the new Oregon Safety Model introduced an integrated, continuous assessment of children's safety. It changed nearly all major child welfare processes and procedures, and increased workload in several areas, such as by increasing the share of 24-hour response cases for Child Protective Services.


“Ironically, some of the systems we've created to improve operations and oversight actually result in less face time between kids and caseworkers,” said Johnston.


But an important first step in addressing that problem occurred this week, he noted, when the Legislature reallocated program savings in other areas to fund additional Child Welfare staff.


“The reallocation will pay for 78 support staff who will perform some of the administrative tasks the workload report identified as preventing caseworkers from having more direct contact time with children,” said Johnston.


“As a result, DHS will be able to quickly begin making the necessary changes so that energy, focus and resources flow first to child safety,” he said. “We very much appreciate the Legislature's support for this goal.”