Oregon's Child Welfare System Needs Help

Trey Smith

According to an article in today's Statesman Journal, Advocates: Child-Welfare System Ailing, the Oregon Department of Human Services continues to be hampered by less than adequate funding.  Over the past two years, reports of child abuse and neglect continue to rise, while the number of caseworkers remains stagnant or may even decrease.

The article quotes one caseworker who says,

"It is the tyranny of the urgent: a child is running away, a mother is relapsing on drugs; it's crisis, crisis, crisis," she said. "We do not have time for the kind of support we would like to be able to give."

An apt analogy to this situation would be a doctor who ONLY sees to the needs of those suffering heart attacks or strokes.  Instead of providing care and support to each patient in the hopes of preventing the need for emergency medical care, the doctor would wait for this need to arise BEFORE springing into action.

I realize we are in the grips of the "shrink government at all costs crowd", but here's a classic example of spending more on the front end to save hundreds of millions of dollars on the back end.

Child abuse occurs within a cycle of violence.  If society doesn't step in at an early juncture, the cycle continues unabated.  Inadequate funding today merely passes the buck to future legislatures as today's victims grow into tomorrow's abusers.

  • Becky (unverified)

    It is absolutely mind-boggling to me how any human being can neglect or abuse a child. And not funding these programs, in my opinion, is neglect and abuse on a grand scale. They are the ONLY hope these children have. It ought to be common knowledge by now that children who suffer serious abuse or neglect in early childhood NEVER really recover and either enter abusive relationships as adults or go on to abuse otheres, so how can we let it continue? At a time when meth use is making the situation even worse than it was before, to underfund these programs is abominable.

    When our representatives fail children on such a grand scale as this, what can the citizens do? We cannot take the children out of these bad situations ourselves. We cannot begin to ease their pain sufficiently by reaching out to them, though that helps. Even private organizations that feed and clothe these children, though helpful, can't save them from their hell.

    Because children usually will accept responsibility for their abuse, they don't tell anyone who can help them, so much of it goes unnoticed. I have never known anyone who was physically abused, but I know so many who were sexually abused and no one stopped it even when they knew it was going on. This, in my mind, is the greatest evil in the world.

    Not to bring in another explosive issue here, but just an observation - I see the same mentality in our war on Iraq. I have seen photos of dead and brutally injured children because of our actions that are heart-wrenching. And then there are the rumors of child rape in Abu Graihb. Why doesn't America rise up in protest of this treatment of children? It leaves me screaming inside, but I feel helpless to do anything. Does anyone have any ideas?

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Child services has been severely underfunded for many years. Legislators and governors always react passionately to the mistreatment of children, but always fail to do what is needed. The bottom line: Kids don't vote or make political contributions. Leave it others in coming decades to deal with the crime and mental health problems caused by child abuse today.

    This society sucks.

  • Trey Smith (unverified)

    Both comments above are right on! I was thinking that the very politicians and voters who consistently oppose adequate funding for DHS generally are the very same people who rail against the "system" whenever a child -- often brought to everyone's attention through investigative media -- falls "through the cracks", cracks that these same people helped to create and widen.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I did some on-line searches for local groups that work to help either prevent child abuse or help victims of abuse and there are actually quite a few. I was struck by two things in my search: first, this issue is a big deal to me, yet I have not heard of these groups. Second, I was struck by the realization that though these groups are apparently doing a lot of good things and trying very hard, they can't do the one thing that government CAN do - take the kids away from their abusive parents. That takes a lot of money, and it also takes foster families willing to take these kids in. And that is where I get frustrated most. I care, but my husband and I both also work full time and we have enough trouble giving proper attention to our two well-adjusted kids. I can't put them at risk by stretching myself even more thin to care for a child that will likely have some needs I don't understand how to address. Probably this is a wide-spread impediment to society caring properly for these abused kids. My practical inability to help them in a direct hands-on way forces me to step back and look at the larger problem of how to prevent the abuse in the first place. And that is where it really gets overwhelming.

    Although I never agreed with Gov. Kitzhaber's mandatory home visits within the first month of birth I understand the sentiment behind it. But it is a terribly serious thing to have government coming into a home and judging whether that home is functioning properly. That, then, is where the private sector comes in - faith-based groups and non-profit groups who do not have the authority to break up the family. And that is what these groups I have just discovered apparently can do and are doing. They reach out to families before the abuse occurs in order to try to prevent it by easing stressors that can result in abuse and by educating parents. In my search I also found a speech that Gov. Kulongoski gave in May this year talking about the unsung heroes in our fight against child abuse being those who help prevent it. It was a well-articulated and important message.

    I think I have found some good leads to follow here to take some action, both by supporting family outreach efforts by the non-profit private organizations and by supporting lobbying efforts to increase funding for government intervention once abuse has occurred. I hope everyone who reads this will do the same.

  • Andrea C Kay (unverified)

    I cannot believe my eyes on what you all have posted!! How old are you? What do you do for a job? Do you pay taxes into the system? Or are you all recipients of the system? I have been self emplyed since I was 21 years of age. I almost starved to death putting myself thru a tradeschool and still pay my rent while holding a full time job. In which I have plied for the last 21 years. I pay back in income taxes alone 65% of my gross income for being self employed. Now I have peple like you wanting to raise my Socoal Security taxes to support the norht american mattress back who poops out a kid every few years for a income. Come on!!! If you don't think they exist they do. Angel 28 years old is supporting her four children from three fathers, her brother Ray her Mom and dad Plus a boyfriend on Welfare Funds!!! Lets not forget the money she makes selling marijuanna to the neighbor hood teenagers. Did I mention she lives two blocks from Marshfield High School in Coos Bay Oregon?? Where does Welfare Funds come from? SOCIAL SECURITY!! Who pays into Socoal Security?? I DO!!! 14 and 1/2 percent of my gross income I pay into Social Security. The working guy who has an employer pays only 7 percent. What about thses people who are not going to get that Social Security check that they paid into when they turn 65 years of age? Well they won't social Security is coming to an end.
    So what will they use to pay the welfare families. Well I believe it will be a Welfare Tax. At 14 percent. this will come out of the working man pay check every month so the alcoholic,drug addict and the fat lazy 204 pound Angel in Coos Bay oregon can sit home a crap out another kid, and sell pot to the highschool children of Coos Bay's working class Mom and Dads instead of going to work like the rest of us.
    I commend the guy who said the home visits of the welfare just out of the hospital is a good thing. Stop these north american mattress backs from making this a career!! The you will find the Govermant will have plenty of money to go around. Do your people search. Befriend the welfare recipients and you will see Angel is not the only one. I would like to tel you about Rhonda nd Jay Brady from Ohio. the moved to Reedsport Oregon cause of the easy welfare monies. They got free toys fro thier daughter Jayna. then returned it all to the store for drug money. Then they showed up at my store front wanting free services cause they used up the money they got from elfare and the returned free toys that was given to there daughter. HELLO!!!! ANYONE SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THIS!!! I guess I am so wrong for not just haniding over my till to them cause they were so poor and didn't want to work.
    I think the system has flaws and is abused. It need to be rescued fromt he ones they are trying to rescue. Change how the system works and I think you will find more money available tothose who are really in need of it.
    Start with Help with the first child, Day care, health care and food money if they live on thier own, and have a job. If they live with family, Dare care and health care. Lets not support the whole five generation in the house!! If they get prego again and still can't take care of themselves and set a work effort for the children, Remove them from the home and adopted them to a family who really wants them and can afford to pay for the child's needs. OH Look no more free ride for the mattress back, extra funds!! The only person who is not happy is the mattress back who has to get a job or mooch on some one else!!

    Sorry if this rubs you the wrong way Becky, Tom, and Trevor, But your letters rubbed me the wrong way. We are not a socialist society. Russia was and looked what happened to them. YOur Ideals of support those who won't work is socialist flat out!!! You want to make sure these monies are available. Donate your whole pay check every month, sell your house and and give the profit to these people, But stay the hell away from my pay check. I worked my health off to earn it!! I had cataracs at 32 cause of malnutrition when I was in tradeschool when I was 19. I paid for the surgeries myself, and paid for my childrens health care myself. I pay for thier gifts at christmas and birthdays myself. I pay my own morgage, income taxes, property taxes, groceries,clothing,electric,phone, cable. I am not paying for a partygirls to support thier Moms, dads, boyfriends, brothers, aunts, uncles, and four kids by three dads. That would take from what my children need.

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