Media Room

Testimony for Senate Human Services Committee
November 16, 2015

As Prepared

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee. I am Kate Brown, currently serving as Oregon Governor. Thank you for the opportunity to make brief remarks before handing things over to Clyde Saiki, interim director at the Department of Human Services.

 I’m here today because I care deeply about the safety of vulnerable children in our foster care system. It is paramount that we provide young people with safe and caring environments that allow them to thrive. This is our duty.

It is also our duty to hold agencies accountable and ensuring they use state resources prudently.

 These are commitments that we as state leaders have made, and values we share in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.
Recent information has come to light that calls into question Oregon’s foster care services and state agency accountability.  I have serious concerns about this, and I have already taken steps to find out what happened and address the issues.

I’d like to give a quick overview of where things currently stand. 
As you know, on November 4th, I asked Clyde Saiki to step in as interim director at the Department of Human Services and lead the agency until a successor can be named. I had appointed Clyde as the state’s chief operating officer a few months ago, and I am grateful to have such an experienced and respected state manager to turn to in these circumstances.

I have confidence in his ability to maintain stability in the agency while facilitating the resolution to the issues presented.
I have directed Clyde to engage an external contractor to conduct an independent assessment of the DHS child foster care system. This assessment will include licensing, abuse and neglect investigations in licensed care, communications and accountability mechanisms within the agency, and financial stability and sufficiency of foster care providers.

The contractor will provide me with a report that includes recommendations for improvements.

To provide feedback and advice along the way, I will name, by the end of this week, an advisory committee comprised of legislators, a representative from the Secretary of State’s Audits Division, and representatives of community stakeholder groups.  This group will serve as a sounding board for the external reviewer throughout the process.

Clyde also will appoint by the end of this week an internal resource group that will supply agency data and information and other assistance to the reviewer. 

I have requested weekly reports on the progress of this comprehensive assessment, which, upon completion, may usefully inform legislation for future sessions. Any recommendations that are actionable without legislation will be considered immediately.

I appreciate the attention and leadership Senator Gelser has shown in working with DHS agency staff and my staff to address these concerns. I look forward to continuing to work together to make foster care a safe haven for Oregon children in need.
And to our youth in foster care, know that I care. You matter, your well-being matters, and your future matters.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my remarks.