Governor announces plans to increase DHS staff

Grants Pass, Ore. — Oregon currently has a foster care case load nearly two times larger than the national average. Now, Governor Kate Brown has announced a new staffing plan, aimed at tackling caseworker shortages in the Child Welfare Division of the Department of Human Services.

According to the governor, there are around 1,300 case workers in the state. Her staffing plan would add nearly 200 more, including support staff, in the coming months.

While the staffing plan is pending approval, a local organization is urging leaders in Salem to say ‘yes’.

Last January, NBC5 News was the first to reveal the Department of Health in Josephine County was forced to add a bed in its office to help take care of the foster children walking through the door.

“Our children deserve better. Every single child must be safe in our foster care system,” said Governor Kate Brown.

Thursday, Governor Brown announced a staffing plan for the state’s Child Welfare Division. With legislative support for $14.5 million in additional funding for this biennium, DHS could hire nearly 200 staff immediately.

That plan is good news for Bea Ryan, the founder of Our Foster Kids in Grants Pass.

“These kids – they’re our kids. They belong to society,” Ryan said.

Ryan knows the flaws of the foster care system well.

“At age 18 they opened the door and said buh-bye on my 18th birthday. My memories of the California foster system is seeing my case worker once every six months – maybe,” Ryan said.

It’s that experience that led her to start Our Foster Kids, an organization that helps local kids in the system.

“They start off live already having attachment problems,” Ryan said.

Which is why she said Governor Brown’s staffing plan must be passed.

“It’s kind of like a village. You need a lot of people working for these kids to get them what they need. It’s not just one case worker who’s got 30 kids,” Ryan said.

Ryan said she sees caseworkers all the time – overworked and understaffed.

“It goes on and on and on and on and it’s too much for one person,” Ryan said.

She called the current system ‘broken’ and said something must be done now, not later.

“Please look at the big picture. Is it a band-aid? No, it’s a long-term plan to take care of these kids now,” Ryan said.

The staffing plan is still waiting on a final decision for approval. Stay with NBC5 News for updates on this story.

NBC5 News reporter, weather forecaster, anchor Nikki Torres graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Strategic Communication from The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

She also received a minor in Business Administration from the Washington State University Carson College of Business. Prior to coming to NBC5, Nikki was an intern at KHQ Local News, the NBC affiliate in Spokane.

She comes to Southern Oregon from the state of Washington, where she grew up just south of Seattle. She loves running, exploring the Pacific Northwest, watching a good football game and spending time with her dog, Gisele. True to her roots, Nikki is a proud WSU Cougar fan and loyal Seahawks fan.

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