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Report Touts Oregon's Progress in Foster and Kinship Care

PHOTO: More than nine of ten Oregon children in state custody are placed with relatives or foster families, and only four percent in group homes or institutional care, earning the state high marks from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo credit: AimeeLow/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: More than nine of ten Oregon children in state custody are placed with relatives or foster families, and only four percent in group homes or institutional care, earning the state high marks from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo credit: AimeeLow/morguefile.com.
May 20, 2015

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon leads the nation in a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report that says children in state custody do best when they're cared for in family settings.

Oregon has the lowest percentage of kids placed in group homes or institutional care, at 4 percent. Of the 8,200 Oregon children in the system, more than nine in 10 are placed with relatives or foster families.

Lisa McMahon, who heads the Oregon Foster Youth Connection, noted that doesn't mean these families have an easy time - and state lawmakers need to keep that in mind.

"Maybe they need extra training, maybe they need respite care - so, thinking about what is it that a foster family needs to be able to support youth, in gaining some stability and permanency," she said. "There's so much more than the 'safety model' of ... providing a bed. They need the support to support the whole youth."

Foster care is a big topic in the Legislature this year. Bills are being considered to create a task force to support and improve foster care (Senate Bill 311); to allow foster children to open their own savings accounts at age 12 (House Bill 2889), and to support their involvement in extracurricular activities (HB 2890).

Another proposal (SB 632) would create pilot programs to focus on about 900 Oregon kids who have been in multiple foster homes. McMahon said the latest research shows children's behavior issues after placement often are reactions to trauma.

"I've heard from many foster parents who feel like, often, they're alone once the child shows up in their home," she said. "And many foster parents have acknowledged that it would be helpful to have some sort of a support system that they could call ... at 10:00 at night, when something's happening that they're not sure how to manage."

She said Oregon's foster care system does have challenges: a high rate of children entering foster care, and an average length of stay of about a year and a half, which also is considered high. According to the Casey Foundation report, states should support services for families in crisis to minimize the need for foster care.

The report is online at aecf.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR