Gov. Kate Brown’s Child Welfare Oversight Board recently shared a progress report on key initiatives launched over recent months focused on bringing Oregon children in out-of-state facilities back to Oregon, and hiring more caseworkers to protect children and work more closely with families. Plans have been driven by Brown’s Executive Order 19-03, which aims at improving safety and building capacity in Oregon’s child welfare system, according to a press release from Brown’s office.

“In order to bring children in out-of-state facilities back to Oregon, we need to develop more capacity here to to serve children with complex needs,” said Brown. “I’m pleased to see numbers of children out of state going down and interest going up to become a caseworker to help all of Oregon’s kids.”

Bringing children back to Oregon

Currently, 37 children in the child welfare system are being served in an out-of-state facility, down from as many as 88, according to the press release.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has been able to bring these children back to Oregon by working with providers to expand behavioral residential services in the state.

To help further reduce the number of children in out-of-state facilities, DHS and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) are implementing a joint plan to develop additional psychiatric residential treatment services (PRTS) for children in the child welfare system.

Brown, following a recommendation from the Oversight Board, directed OHA and DHS to develop capacity for an additional 15 beds by the end of the year. In addition to the new beds, Brown has directed the agencies to conduct joint analyses to determine whether additional PRTS capacity is needed and to report the joint findings to the legislature by the end of this year.

“We appreciate the partnership of the Oregon Health Authority in helping us better serve our children who have complex, specialized needs,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, DHS director. “These new services will help us meet an urgent need to serve kids closer to home while we work to improve the continuum of care in Oregon.”

OHA Director Patrick Allen said, “Adding new beds is an important step in our broader strategy to support our most vulnerable youth and families. We look forward to working with DHS, treatment programs, and coordinated care organizations to ensure youth receive the care and support they need to be stable, well and successful.

“We will continue to assess how we can build a more effective treatment system that responds to the full range of services that at-risk youth and families need across the state.”

Hiring more caseworkers

In July, the Oversight Board recommended and oversaw the launch of a statewide recruitment surge for 300 new child welfare workers. To date, the agency has received an unprecedented high response, according to the press release.

DHS expects to have a majority of the positions filled by the end of October. The comprehensive recruitment process includes prescreening, two rounds of interviews, reference checks, and criminal background checks. DHS also is developing a more comprehensive training program for new child welfare staff.

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