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OR Budget Crunch = Loss of Foster Families, Child Services

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 By Chris ThomasContact
October 27, 2008

Portland, OR – Reports of child abuse and neglect in Oregon have decreased slightly in the past year, and fewer children were placed in foster homes. However, children's advocates say the faltering economy should prompt a closer look at those trends. The state has lost 400 foster homes, as foster families can't afford to take on more children. Almost half the children in foster care have been moved to at least three different homes.

Mark McKechnie, who leads Oregon's Juvenile Rights Project, says rising prices and higher unemployment will have consequences for children, too.

"All of the stress factors that are related to child abuse and neglect, and foster care entry, go up. At the same time, there are cuts at the state level and county level in the kinds of services that prevent abuse and neglect and prevent children from going into foster care."

More children's relatives are volunteering to care for them, according to McKechnie, partly because of the foster home shortage and partly because of a new Oregon law giving family members the same state benefits as foster caregivers.

One theory explaining fewer abuse reports is that there are fewer investigators. McKechnie says he is worried Oregon's tight budget won't stretch far enough to prevent cuts in state and county services that protect children.

"We are getting better and better at identifying both what leads to abuse and neglect and what we can do about it. The big question is whether we're going to put the resources behind doing the things that we know we should be doing."

More than 6,000 abuse and neglect cases were reported in Oregon in the past year, and about 7,500 children are living in foster care.

The 2007 report card is available online from Children First for Oregon at www.cffo.org.

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