At the heart of Oregon’s overburdened foster care system, you will find foster families just like the Moddermans.
These are the people giving their lives to kids who didn't choose the situation they're in. But there simply are not enough foster parents out there to care for the more than 11,000 kids in the system, according to a 2018 audit.
Problems in the state’s child welfare system are complicated and go back decades, but the shortage of foster parents in Oregon can be attributed to two major factors: the demands of the job and the lack of support from the state.
“There’s just not enough homes. There’s not enough homes for the kiddos, which means there’s so much more work for caseworkers and everything else,” Jeanne said. “Everything that comes together in this system starts with there not being enough homes.”
The audit, conducted by the Secretary of State Audit Division, took a critical look at the child welfare system. It confirms what Jeanne already knows: The state needs more foster parents.
Of the roughly 870,000 children in Oregon, more than 11,000 are in Oregon’s foster care system.
The audit points to high staff turnover at the Department of Human Services, staff shortages, chronic management failures and high caseloads as the main reasons for the lack of foster families.
Those issues trickle down to foster families like the Moddermans. They say an overwhelmed system often leaves them without consistent caseworkers and leaves children without enough homes for placement.
After their first foster child was placed with the family, Chris said they did not hear from a case manager again for three months.
“There’s a little bit of a communication breakdown and some of it comes from the fact that the caseworkers are overworked,” Chris said.
With the declining number of foster homes, DHS is asking foster parents like the Moddermans to do more and, just like caseworkers, they are burning out.
“Overworked caseworkers have limited time to build relationships with foster parents. Foster parents reported they understood caseworkers were busy, but they still needed more hands-on support from them,” the audit stated.
In recent surveys of foster parents highlighted by the audit, only about one third of foster parents felt they were included as a valued member of the team that provides care and planning to foster children.
Just 34 percent reported they were able to receive services they needed to care for foster children around the clock. Just over half (57 percent) felt they received any support in the care of foster children placed in their home.
“Foster families’ input needs to be taken more seriously when it comes to cases. I mean these kiddos are with us 24-7, and like I said, the caseworkers do what they can, but they don’t know these kids like we do,” Jeannie said. “I wish that would be taken more into consideration with kids, especially with kids with complicated stories when it comes to adoption or reunification.”