After a critical audit by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office highlighted failings of the agency charged with caring for the state’s most vulnerable children, Gov. Kate Brown is asking for an additional $14.5 million this legislative session to hire 200 more caseworkers.
The audit of the state’s Office of Child Welfare released last month found myriad problems with the agency from disorganized management, to high staff turnover, to a persistent shortage of foster homes due to a lack of support from the agency.
The additional funding proposed by the governor would need to be approved by the Legislature, which is in the midst of a 35-day legislative session scheduled to adjourn March 11. If approved, the supplemental funding would help reduce the administrative burden on caseworkers so they can focus their energies on their caseloads, Brown said in a statement.
“Before we can accomplish anything else as a state, the safety of Oregon’s most vulnerable children must be secured,” Brown said in a statement.
If re-elected in November 2018, Brown said she would secure future funding for the department so the additional staff would be maintained. State Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, who is considered the likely GOP gubernatorial front-runner, pushed for an additional $50 million earlier this month.
He suggested creating a “rapid improvement team” to focus on stabilizing the state’s foster care system and implement the recommendations outlined by the Secretary of State’s audit.
After Brown’s announcement on Thursday, Buehler said he’s pleased the governor has “ended her silence and begun to assume responsibility for Oregon’s foster care crisis.”
“This is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done now — our foster care kids deserve better than a 26 percent solution, they deserve 100 percent,” Buehler said in a statement. “Everything else can wait — our most vulnerable kids cannot.”