New report highlights foster care’s failings as legislators debate funding

A recent report by the Children’s Administration shows how many of the highest-needs foster children in its custody are falling through the cracks. This “placement crisis,” as agency leaders and lawmakers have taken to calling it, has largely been the result of insufficient and unpredictable state budgets. A bill that would have improved funding for the state’s foster care system has died in the Senate.

Washington’s troubled foster care program struggles to keep foster parents

Over the course of four years, foster parent Veronica Moody of Kirkland took in babies and children with severe challenges, including drug exposure, extreme tantrums and nightmares, head-banging and third-degree burns. But that wasn’t the really hard part of the job, the part that drove away Moody and her husband Chris from accepting more kids. It was Washington state’s dysfunctional foster care system. “All the problems the state causes, due to lack of resources and lack of training, make our job as foster parents very difficult,” Moody said. “It burns you out.”

The Moodys’ tale is sadly familiar.

Racism in the foster care system: No surprise?

Just last week, InvestigateWest reported that Oregon officials were planning to reevaluate the state’s foster care system after some ghastly cases of neglect were made public. Now it seems they’ve decided to tackle yet another issue: how racism can influence caseworkers’ response to abuse reports.

The Oregonian has been closely following this story, with Michelle Cole reporting on this week’s announcement. It seems that a new report by Portland State University revealed that racial bias sways the way state child welfare officials  deal with suspected neglect. The study found that African American children and Native American children were much more likely to be pulled from their biological homes than Caucasian children, whereas Hispanic children were removed at much lower rates. African American and Native American children, on average, also spent greater lengths of time in foster care before being returned to their parents.

Multnomah County, right outside Portland, is one of three counties nationwide looking at why these statistics are occurring. But Multnomah County Circuit Judge Nan Waller told The Oregonian she wasn’t surprised by the results:
Let’s acknowledge it — sometimes racism occurs.
The most recent case to come into her courtroom involved a child who overdosed on cocaine while with a babysitter. His parent’s race — African American — and their history had authorities convinced they were drug dealers.

Oregon looks at foster care neglect; abuse rates twice the national average

Two recent cases of maltreatment have prompted Oregon officials to initiate the state’s first ever study of how children in foster care are neglected or abused, reports Ruth Liao of the Statesman Journal.

A team of law enforcement agents, youth organizations and foster care programs have been asked by the Oregon Department of Home Services to find ways to prevent abuse of agency children. The review process includes randomly sampling foster families who have served at least five years, as well as reviewing cases of foster care abuse that were previously closed.

Reports from the state’s Critical Incident Response Team, which detailed the sexual abuse of one adoptive child, as well as the neglect of six medically fragile infants, led DHS officials to call for such an investigation. Some beleive that Oregon’s child-welfare policies have long needed an overhaul, a state where the rate of foster child abuse is double the national average, said Carol Jones, president of the National Foster Parent Association.

— Natasha Walker

B.C. child taken because his parents were poor

B.C. Social Services removed a 3-year-old boy from his parents’ custody because they were too poor to find safe housing, reports Paul Willcocks of the Times Colonist. Over the course of a year, the boy was shuttled through four foster homes, showed injuries consistent with being shaken at the third, and was finally returned to his parents this July with cerebral palsy as a result of his injuries. The only factor preventing the parents from keeping their child initially was the inability to afford safe housing. The couple applied for and was denied assistance, despite the fact that finding them an apartment would have been at least 50 cheaper than paying for foster care. The family finally found suitable housing, but now faces lifelong medical costs of caring for the child.

– Emily Linroth