'In Lane County alone there's 1,135 kids in foster care'
EUGENE, Ore. — Workers at the Department of Human Services-Child Welfare Office in Springfield are used to seeing kids playing on the floor next to their desks.
“When children are removed from their biological families, they are needing a foster home, this is where we spend the day trying to find that” said Brandyn Rice, Head of Recruitment and Retention for DHS in Lane County.
Rice said kids can spend hours, even days waiting for placement in a Foster Home because there aren’t enough of them in Oregon.
“We have a foster parent list that we call on a regular basis. That list used to be pages and pages, now it's only two pages long,” said Chey Gonzalez a Social Specialist for DHS.
Gonzalez is one of the people at the office responsible for making the phone calls to find a placement for the kids. He describes a grueling and at times heartbreaking task.
“Back in the day, you would call like two, three homes, 'Yeah you know I'll take him.' Now, just last week, for one child we called 17 homes,” said Gonzalez.
It’s a problem outlined in a scathing audit recently released of the Oregon Foster Care System. It was conducted by Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s Office, a former foster parent himself. In the audit he found overwhelming staff loads, fewer foster homes and children spending weeks in hotel. They’re all problems Rice says she sees everyday.
“There is a huge crisis right now, not only in Oregon, but in Lane County alone there's 1,135 kids in foster care just in Lane County” said Rice.
Rice said there are only 148 general applicant Foster Homes in Lane County right now. She describes an uphill battle where the odds keep getting stacked against them.
“Feeling defeated," Rice said. "You know, I have this dream that someday we would have this list of foster families to where if a child came into care, I could pick."