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Report: Too Many OR Children in Long-Term Foster Care

PHOTO: Oregon places more children in foster care than most other states, but it is also working on some new approaches to minimize the number who remain in the system for more than two years. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: Oregon places more children in foster care than most other states, but it is also working on some new approaches to minimize the number who remain in the system for more than two years. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
March 27, 2014

SALEM, Ore. – The next generation of Oregonians is being challenged by poverty and all its ramifications, according to a new report from Children First for Oregon.

Of the 25 indicators of well-being for children summarized in the report, one statistic is that more than one-third of children age nine and older in foster care has been there two years or longer.

Pamela Butler, CFFO child welfare policy manager, says smaller child welfare budgets and higher caseloads have left almost 1,700 children in long-term limbo, when more effort could change that.

"Yes, it is an extra workload, but I think it pays off,” she says. “Those outcomes for youth who stay in the system are so bad, it's time to invest in the kids who are in the system now and find them families – so that when they leave, they have people that care about them and they're not on their own."

The report says more children are placed in foster care in Oregon than in almost any other state, partly because of the strict way the state defines abuse and neglect and takes swift action to remove children from those situations.

Just last month, Oregon began a new approach to reducing long-term foster care by giving specific cases more individual attention. Kathy Prouty, the state's Child Permanency and Adoption Program manager, describes brainstorming sessions – called permanency roundtables – involving caseworkers, supervisors and child welfare experts.

"The worker comes away with an action plan,” she explains, “that's really, intently focused on, how do we move this child into either reunification – if we need to figure out how to work differently with parents – or into legal permanency, which is defined as guardianship or adoption."

Prouty says the roundtables began in Multnomah County, which is where the greatest number of foster children reside, and will continue across the state in the coming months.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR