SB 632 is one of those measures that could easily fly under the radar screen without detection unless one is paying attention. It just so happens this bill appeared the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Services which I a voting member of.
The bill directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish two pilot programs, one in a rural community and the other in an urban setting to improve the quality and effectiveness of foster care for children. Having been involved in placing several kids in foster homes while serving in the Oregon State Police, I was skeptical of this bill, until I heard some of the testimonies.
Rep. Duane Stark was one of those giving testimony in support of the bill. Duane has been married for 10 years and has three children. He and his wife are proud foster and adoptive parents with counseling degrees. His background serves him well having been a Community Service Supervisor, Inner-City At-Risk-Youth Director, and a Supervisor for Residential Psychiatric Treatment Center with foster kids.
Duane shared a story of one of his foster kids who had been bounced from one foster home to another until the little guy arrived in the Stark home. Because of knowing how to deal with serious issues, Duane and his wife were able to work through the issues this little boy brought. Rather than dismiss the child to another foster home, the Starks worked with the boy. Today, two years later, the youngster has grown and become part of his family.
Jim Seymour who is the Executive Director of Catholic Community Services in Salem, shared on any given day they serve more than 100 children in Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties that suffer from serious emotional and behavior problems. He shared the following story:
"Ricky is one of the children we serve. When he came to us, at ten years old, he had already been in 40 different foster home placements and had never been able to attend public school. He has been in his current foster home for three years now and is doing well.
I'm confident that none of Ricky's prior foster parents wanted to give up on him, but without adequate training and support he simply wore them down. The kind of extra support we provide includes specialized trauma informed care training...Catholic Community Services provides these enhanced services without any State support."
That's what SB 632 is all about, giving foster parents tools through DHS, who would provide specialized training to foster parents to better work with foster kids with special needs. This important bill will improve foster care outcomes and reduce costs for Oregon taxpayers, but more importantly it will help provide foster youth with what they need most: safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.
I'm glad I signed onto the bill.
Until next week,