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Grass roots help for Oregon kids in the DHS foster care system

Embrace Oregon is community-based help for the foster care system. And it is spreading its volunteer model to every county in the state.

The Department of Human Services child welfare office in Hillsboro is really looking good.

The meeting rooms are painted with murals and other designs by community volunteers organized by Embrace Oregon.

"It started with painting walls and doing hospitality for DHS staff to bringing donuts and saying 'thank you for the work that you do,'" said Brooke Gray.

Gray is Executive Director of Embrace Oregon. The mission of the non-profit is clear --  to help an overburdened state agency handle the child welfare crisis.

EMBRACE OREGON by standing in the gap for vulnerable children and families in partnership with the Department of Human Services. Learn More There are so many ways you can care for children and families in the foster care system. Here are a few ways you can help.

"DHS is only as strong as the community that comes alongside it", said Gray. "It’s the only government agency that’s dependent on volunteers to do its job well because if there’s no foster parents coming forward, where are they going to place the children?"

The Gerberg family is a success story for foster care. Vennisa and Jeff have six children: four biological, and a niece and nephew, now adopted. The two were their first foster care kids ten years ago.  Since then, the Gerbergs have fostered dozens more.

"I definitely want to create a space where kids know what healthy looks like, what a healthy marriage looks like, what healthy consequences looks like ...  and I want to kind of champion these children," said Venissa.

Credit: Tim Gordon, KGW

Now Venissa works with Embrace Oregon. And it's that kind of loving result that volunteers support.  From painting, to making welcome boxes for children new into the system, to providing relief to foster parents and DHS staff, to becoming a foster parent, there is no shortage of help needed.

And with a state grant, Embrace Oregon is spreading its community-based model to every county in the state.  It hopes to have volunteers helping statewide through its Every Child initiative by 2022.  Embrace says it can only do that with your help.

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