Media Room


Governor Kate Brown
SB 1, SB 221 Testimony – Supports for Children with Specialized Needs
Thursday, March 21, 2019
I am here today to testify in support of Senate Bill 1, and its companion bill, Senate Bill 221. I encourage you to move quickly on this legislation. It will create a better support system for our most vulnerable children and families.

We all know far too well that too many Oregon children and youth are falling through the cracks. Since I have become Governor, I have heard time again from health care providers, families, and youth across the state that Oregon does not provide enough support for children and youth with specialized needs. These are kids with chronic behavioral, emotional, physical, or developmental conditions. Many of them have faced trauma early in their lives, and have not had a stable family structure to support them.

And all too often, they end up being shuffled around the system in settings that are not conducive to healing. Some were living in hotels or sleeping in detention centers. Some kids are forced to spend weeks at a time in emergency rooms. And some are sent for treatment hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away.

There are many programs and sectors that serve these children and youth -- but there is lack of cross-sector coordination, cultural responsiveness, and focus on prevention. As a result, these kids, unfortunately, are in crisis.

To help address this critical problem, I was pleased to join my esteemed colleagues Senate President Peter Courtney and Chief Justice Martha Walters in convening the Children and Youth with Specialized Needs Workgroup.

This workgroup met for a year, and included representatives from a multitude of organizations that care for kids with the highest needs in our state. I would like to thank every member of the work group for their time and energy. And for their ability to look beyond their own organizations and focus on system-wide changes that will better support our children and youth with specialized needs.

The work group’s recommendations resulted in the two bills in front of you. These bills provide more oversight and accountability to the fragmented system of care, as well as intensive support aimed at keeping our families together. We are removing too many of our children from their families and placing them in foster care. If we want to keep our families together, our families need support, and that’s why these bills are so important.

This legislation increases capacity for crisis support programs to respond in the most critical moments families face. It provides safe home-based settings for children through expanded therapeutic foster care, and it creates a statewide System of Care advisory council that I will appoint.

Let me be perfectly clear: these bills alone will not solve all of our challenges, but they will go a long way toward creating a better, more coordinated system for children and youth with specialized needs, getting families the help they need sooner so they can stay together, and ensuring our children and youth who need specialized care are in appropriate treatment settings.

I look forward to seeing these bills come across my desk soon.

Thank you.