Oregon Lawmakers Seek Change at DHS

Oregon_State_Capitol_2After years of complaints and allegations that innocent children have been neglected, physically abused, and sexually abused while in the care of foster parents under the supervision of the state’s Department of Human Services, state legislators are looking to overhaul the organization.

House Bill 4080 passed both the Oregon House and Senate and now awaits Governor Kate Brown’s signature. Brown is expected to sign the bill since she has been a vocal supporter. Last November, Brown made an unexpected appearance before the Senate’s Human Services Committee to advocate for an overhaul of the state’s foster care system.

“I will not hesitate to use my pen and my executive power,” said Brown, who noted that her work as an attorney included time in the foster care system. “There’s no silver bullet or easy solutions. This will take time and attention and resources. It has mine, and I know it has yours.”

The bill received bipartisan support in both chambers and will create a Governor’s Foster Care Advisory Commission of eleven members appointed by the Governor for a four-year term. The Commission will make recommendations to the Governor concerning the state’s foster care system. Specifically, it will monitor accountability in the foster care system, ensure children placed in substitute care are placed in a permanent home within 24 months, and increase the numbers of families eligible to participate in the foster care program. Most importantly, it will monitor, license, and supervise foster care families as well as aggressively investigate allegations of any abuse.

Another bill would create consequences for DHS employees who fail to properly investigate claims of abuse. The House and Senate will vote on that bill this week.

It is time our elected leaders take action to protect innocent and vulnerable children. Whether another Advisory Commission and government study will actually stop the exploitation and abuse of our kids, time will tell.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states.

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