Secretary of State Bev Clarno Releases Audit of Child Welfare’s Use of Family Services to Keep Families Together


Improving services provided to parents and children involved with the Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Welfare division can help keep families intact, reduce racial disparities in Oregon’s foster care system and lessen Oregon’s shortage of foster homes, according to a Secretary of State audit.

The findings are outlined in the report entitled: “Oregon Can More Effectively Use Family Services to Limit Foster Care and Keep Children Safely at Home.”

Oregon Child Welfare removes children from their homes at a higher rate and returns them to foster care more often than the national average. A new federal law, the Family First Prevention Services Act, encourages states to shift to a preventive approach to safely reduce removals by helping pay for evidence-based family services. However, auditors found Child Welfare faces substantial obstacles in making that shift. Among them:

  • Child Welfare caseworkers face high workloads and tight deadlines that reduce their ability to help parents access services that could prevent removal of their children.
  • Oregon’s disparate system of child and family services, scattered across multiple programs and agencies, means caseworkers and families must cross numerous jurisdictional boundaries to get help that families need.
  • The availability and quality of crucial services that can help prevent removals is limited, including in-home parenting classes, affordable housing and mental health care and substance use disorder treatment. Availability and quality also vary by geographic area.
  • Child Welfare’s management of service provider performance needs substantial improvement.

The audit, which builds on the Oregon Audits Division’s 2018 audit of foster care, includes ten recommendations to help Child Welfare develop a preventive approach. They focus on improving coordination with other agencies and programs, reducing workloads and better using data to identify effective providers.

“After three years of auditing Child Welfare, it’s clear that Oregon Child Welfare workers cannot take care of our state’s most vulnerable children and families on their own,” Secretary of State Bev Clarno said. “Child Welfare needs to improve, but it also needs help from other state agencies, Coordinated Care Organizations, and individuals and communities all around the state.”

Read the full report on the Secretary of State website.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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