Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
Oregon Foster Care Summit
January 8, 2019


We are all here today because we share a very important goal: to improve the lives of the children and families in Oregon’s foster care system.

In my travels around the state, I have heard from and listened to many of you who have been touched by this system, and DHS leadership is doing the same.

But this is not a new issue. I’ve been working in the foster care system for a number of years: as a lawyer, as a legislator, and as your Governor.

The issues in Oregon and nationally require us to think about this in a new way.

That’s why as DHS moves forward on right-sizing the foster care system in Oregon and keeping families together safely, our focus as a state must be identifying and addressing the root causes that devastate families and impact children.

I am very pleased about the work of my Children’s Cabinet, focusing on prevention. We are pulling together leaders statewide across all disciplines to support families and create a system of early child care and education so that children can arrive at kindergarten ready to learn.

And even as we turn more attention to prevention, we need to provide more support to the families in our foster care system. My budget funds several programs to support our families and youth.

All foster parents, regardless of where they live, deserve to be supported. That’s why I’ve called for statewide implementation of KEEP, or keeping families together. You’ll hear from their director later.

Many kids need a team on their side. We heard the call from the specialized needs work group — thanks to those of you who volunteered — to provide 200 more CANS Level 3 youth in Oregon with therapeutic foster care.

My recommended budget allocated $8.5 million to expand eligibility for the Independent Living Program to youth ages 14-23, including creating new transition housing.

In addition, I have allocated $1.7 million to create a Healthy Relationships Education Program for foster youth. This peer-led model is shown to build healthy relationship skills. It also reduces teen pregnancy, STIs, and vulnerability to sex trafficking.

Youth voice is an important part of this conversation, and Court Appointed Special Advocates are there to amplify youth voices. I’ve allocated funding to bring more CASAs into Oregon communities.

We also are making sure that parents and children have adequate representation, which means reducing caseloads.

These funding proposals don’t happen in a vacuum.  In developing my budget, I had the help of our panelists.

I’d like this opportunity to thank them for their input, time, and energy.

I can’t solve this alone and it’s incredibly important as we move forward to have the support and advocacy of our community partners.

Your support is integral to improving the lives of thousands of children and youth across our state every day.

There are so many ways to speak up and speak out. Write your legislator. Call them! Write a letter to the editor. Connect with these organizations that can provide support.

Thank you all so much for being here today.