Foster parents play an essential role in providing temporary, safe, and nurturing homes to children when their parents are unable to care for them.
Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do to help children of Oregon. We must remain ever vigilant to give our children the best care and support possible, while working to bring permanency and stability into their lives.
Why are children placed in foster care?
Children are placed in foster care either by order of a court (involuntary) or because their parents are willing to have them cared for temporarily outside the home (voluntary).
An involuntary placement occurs when a child has been abused or neglected (or may be at risk of abuse or neglect) by his or her parent or someone else in the household, or because a court has determined that the child is a "person in need of supervision" or a juvenile delinquent. The court orders the child removed from the home and determines the length of the placement.
A voluntary placement occurs when parents decide that they are temporarily unable to care for their child for reasons other than abuse or neglect. For example, the family is experiencing a serious medical, emotional, and/or financial problem. The parents sign a voluntary placement agreement that lists the responsibilities of the parents and the agency during the child's placement. In the case of a voluntary surrender, however, the parents voluntarily and permanently give up all parental rights and transfer "custody and guardianship" to an authorized agency.
What is the role of a foster parent?
As a foster parent, you are responsible for the temporary care and nurturing of a child who has been placed outside his or her own home. During a time of disruption and change, you are giving a child a home. At the same time, your role includes working with the caseworker and the child’s family so that the child can return home safely, when appropriate.
The role of the foster parent is to:
- Provide temporary care for children, giving them a safe, stable, nurturing environment.
- Cooperate with the caseworker and the child’s parents in carrying out a permanency plan, including participating in that plan.
- Understand the need for, and goals of, family visits and help out with those visits.
- Help the child cope with the separation from his or her home.
- Provide guidance, discipline, a good example, and as many positive experiences as possible.
- Encourage and supervise school attendance, participate in teacher conferences, and keep the child’s caseworker informed about any special educational needs.
- Work with the agency in arranging for the child’s regular and/or special medical and dental care.
- Work with the child on creating a Life Book – a combination of a story, diary, and scrapbook that can help children understand their past experiences so they can feel better about themselves and be better prepared for the future.
- Inform the caseworker promptly about any problems or concerns so that needs can be met through available services
What is a "permanency plan"?
As a foster parent, you are a continuing presence in the child's life. You are familiar with the child's personality and emotional and intellectual development since you care for him or her 24 hours a day.
Therefore, you can contribute valuable information about the child as you work closely with the caseworker/agency, participate in meetings about the child, and communicate with the parents. Foster parents are often the main source of information about how a child is adjusting to the separation from home, interacting with other children, and performing in school.
Even more important, you are a primary source of support for the child. When you have a positive, healthy relationship with your foster children, you help build their trust in adults. This helps prepare them for changes in their living situation that might be necessary to achieve their permanency goal. For example, they may return home or they may be adopted. As you continue to nurture the child day after day, you are helping to plan for his or her permanency.
Foster parents can help plan for permanency through parent-child visits, contacts with the caseworker, service plan reviews, court hearings and discharge activities.
What rights do foster parents have?
Foster parents have the right to:
- Accept or reject a child for placement in a foster home.
- Define and limit the number of children that can be placed in the foster home, within legal capacity.
- Receive information on each child who is to be placed in the foster home.
- Expect regular visits from the child’s caseworker to exchange information, plan together, and discuss any concerns about the child.
- Participate in regular conferences in the foster home to discuss the child’s plan every 90 days or less as required (whenever necessary in times of crisis or emergency).
- Receive notice of, and participate in Service Plan Reviews and Family Court permanency hearings on a child placed in their home.
- Receive training meeting the needs of children in care.
- Have their personal privacy respected
Foster care questions - A 22-page booklet addressing questions kids have about foster care.
Make a difference...Foster & Adoptive Parenting (DHS 9510) | A one page brochure summarizing the need, flexible requirements, financial issues, and contacts for more in-depth information.
Make a difference....Become a Foster or Adoptive Family Inquiry Booklet (DHS 9507) - Twenty-four page booklet based on the most frequently asked questions about foster care and adoption; includes quotes from foster/adoptive parents and foster children/teens.
Icebreakers...The first meeting between birth parents and foster parents - This explains the goal (to exchange information about the child’s needs soon after placement); guidelines; and roles and responsibilities of the foster parent, birth parent and caseworker/facilitator.
Certification Standards for foster care, relative care and pre-adoptive families (March 2007, PDF)
Team Decision Meetings - A one page brochure indicating when these meetings should take place (whenever a decision to move a child is being considered); who should attend; who benefits; meeting format, facilitation and follow up.
Foster Parent Handbook....You make a difference - one child at a time (DHS 7902) - Foster parents determined topics and organization; DHS staff endorsed sharing best practices statewide and ensured that information complies with policy. The initial reference section is meant to be customized with local contact information about staff, foster parent supports and community resources (of which a working template in Word Perfect is available - see below)
The 2009 Data Book
New report shows progress toward child welfare goals
The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today the release of 2009 information and statistics about children in Oregon's child welfare system. The 2009 Child Welfare Data Book, designed to provide more timely information about the children who come into Oregon's child protection system due to abuse or neglect, is now posted online.
This is the first time Oregon has released child welfare information in this more streamlined "data book" format. The 2009 Child Welfare Data Book contains the information that was included in the Status of Children report - but presented in a timelier manner. Under the leadership of Erinn Kelley-Siel, director of Children, Adults and Families, DHS began to strategically focus its efforts to safely reduce the number of children in state foster care. The new report shows that those efforts are showing results.
A total of 13,291 children spent at least one day in foster care in 2009, continuing a trend of reductions over the past two years. On any given day last year, about 8,500 Oregon children were in foster care, and that number was nearly 9,800 just two years ago.
Although the number of children in foster care in Oregon declined, the state continues to place more children in foster care than most other states in the nation.
"Children and their families are the greatest resource we have as a state. Our job to protect and support the healing of some of Oregon's most vulnerable children and their families is critically important, and we are committed to continuously strengthening and improving our work," said Kelley-Siel.
"In this economy, the challenges facing children and their families, and the systems that support them, are becoming increasingly difficult and complex. This report demonstrates the child welfare system's efforts to respond to those challenges. Although there is more work to be done, the numbers in this report reflect the stories of thousands of children who are safer as a result of the department's work," said Kelley-Siel.
In 2009, DHS received 67,885 reports of child abuse and neglect - one report every eight minutes. That is an increase over 2008's total number of reports (65,460) and illustrates the importance Oregonians place on reporting suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. Investigations of these reports found that 11,090 children were victims of child abuse or neglect, an increase from last year's number of confirmed cases. Almost half of those victims were younger than age 6, and most - nearly 95 percent - were abused by someone in their family, most often a parent.
More than 1,100 children had adoptions finalized last year, and 78 percent of those children were adopted by relatives or foster parents. In 94 percent of cases, siblings were adopted together, preserving an important family connection for children.
Since 2007, the Oregon Legislature has made critical investments in four key areas of Oregon's child welfare system -- targeted addiction treatment and recovery services for parents, foster care reimbursement for relative caregivers, enhanced legal reviews in child dependency cases and additional child welfare staff.
Building on those investments, Oregon has set goals to safely reduce the number of children in foster care and to ensure that children in the child welfare system are safe, stable and healthy:
- Increase the number of children who remain safely at home after a founded report of neglect.
- Eliminate disproportionate treatment for children of color in foster care, especially African American and Native American children.
- Increase placements and connections with family (relatives) and ensure ongoing connections with parents and siblings.
- Increase the number of children leaving foster care - either to reunite with parents or to be adopted/have permanent guardianship arrangements.
- Decrease the length of time children spend in foster care.
- Strengthen support for out-of-home caregivers.
- Ensure that children in foster care receive timely, appropriate medical services and mental health assessments.
- Make Oregon a national leader for the absence of abuse in out-of-home care.
- Increase the number of foster care homes/placements available.
In working to achieve these goals, Kelley-Siel says urgent challenges remain: "Alcohol and drug use are the largest contributors to child abuse and neglect, followed closely by domestic violence, and our resources to help families and support victims are stretched thin," Kelley-Siel said. "African American and Native American children continue to be disproportionately represented in foster care. Ending that inequity is something we need to address across the state with the help of our local communities and partners."
2009 Child Welfare Data Book fast facts
Child protective services
- 67,885 reports of abuse and neglect were received, and 28,584 reports were referred for investigation.
- 7,240 referrals were founded for abuse or neglect-involving 11,090 victims.
- 48.1 percent of victims were younger than 6 years old.
- Threat of harm was the largest type of maltreatment incident experienced by victims (49.8 percent of incidents), followed by neglect incidents (31.1 percent of incidents).
- At 42.1 percent, alcohol and drug issues represented the largest single family stress factor when child abuse/neglect was present. The next most common stressors were domestic violence (31.7 percent) and parental involvement with law enforcement (27.0 percent).
- 34 percent of children served with an in-home case during the year received family-based services.
- A total of 9,140 children were served in their homes.
- 13,291 children spent at least one day in some kind of foster care (8,466 children on an average daily basis).
- 5,830 children were in family foster care on an average daily basis, with almost 30 percent of those placed with relatives.
- 58.1 percent of children leaving foster care were reunited with their families.
- There were 4,429 certified family foster homes in 2009.
- Of children served in foster care, 62.5 percent were Caucasian, 6.4 percent did not have race recorded, 8.8 percent were Native American, 12.8 percent were Hispanic, 8.3 percent were African American, and 1.4 percent were Asian or Paci?c Islander.
- 1,104 children had their adoptions ?nalized, with 32.6 percent of those children belonging to ethnic minorities. 77.8 percent of children adopted from DHS were adopted by relatives or non-relative foster parents.
- 575 children who were adopted had siblings also adopted during the year, primarily by the same family. 294 children exited foster care to guardianships.
To download a copy of the new 2009 Child Welfare Data Book (or copies of past Status of Children reports), go to www.oregon.gov/DHS/abuse/publications/children/index.shtml.