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For immediate release: 08/26/2020

CONTACT: Michelle Luedtke | michelle@ourchildrenoregon.org | 503-236-9754

Oregon: Tuesday afternoon, current and former foster youth virtually presented policy recommendations for improving foster care to an audience of more than 100 lawmakers, Oregon Department of Human Services administrators, service providers, and community members.

The recommendations presentation culminated the biennial Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC) Policy Conference, a four-day forum bringing together OFYC youth from across the state to share their stories, identify and discuss pressing issues, and develop concrete solutions to address systemic issues in the foster care system. For this year’s conference, the youth chose to focus on the following topics: understanding and healing from trauma, supporting foster youth who are 18-21, and removing racial bias from foster care.

“It takes great courage and resilience to speak up about the faults of a system that failed you, especially if you are still participating in it. Your [OFYC youth] bravery is admirable and your expertise is invaluable,” a presentation attendee commented. “I am committed to amplifying the information brought here today so that true change can happen.”

2020 Policy Recommendations

Understanding and healing from trauma

  • Create a DHS policy that standardizes access to quality mental health services for youth statewide by allowing them to take a survey that indicates their therapy preferences (to use when matching youth with treatment).
  • Provide youth with a list of therapy services and therapeutic approaches, and ask for their input on what type of therapy they want.
  • Have caseworkers oversee/approve mandatory mixed home contracts (homes with foster children and biological children) and hold foster youths/parents accountable.
  • Have DHS work more closely with BIPOC groups to revamp and go into more depth with existing training geared toward the foster youth’s culture, religious affiliation, gender orientation, ethnicity, political beliefs, and more. 
  • Give BIPOC youth choice on if their foster families receive more specific cultural training 
  • Have DHS ensure cultural sensitivity trainings are given to all members who are in the household and not only foster parents.

Supporting 18-21

  • Enforce mandatory financial planning and training workshops for foster youth in every county.
  • Add a link or QR code to the Oregon Foster Children’s Bill of Rights that leads to a website containing all resources available to youth.
  • Include Home Economics as a mandatory requirement to graduate high school.
  • Ensure youth get classes like Home Economics through DHS even if they don’t have an Independent Living Program (ILP) worker. ILP classes help teach youth cooking and cleaning, filling out applications, and tools to get a job (clothing, interviewing, etc.). 
  • Work with DHS and mental health services to compile a list of mental health resources per county with LGBTQIA+ friendly resources.

Removing Racial Bias from Foster Care

  • Pass a law that foster parents no longer have a legal right to be a foster parent after abuse allegations are founded (includes group home/residential treatment facility staff).
  • Have DHS better meet the physical/mental/emotional needs of BIPOC foster youth, including check-ins without the foster parent present, frequent revisiting of medication diagnoses, and more diverse mental health supports.
  • Mandate classes taught by BIPOC individuals about the systemic and societal racism within the United States to all current and future DHS workers and partners, regardless of position or power.
  • Annually review and revise the process DHS uses when deciding to remove a child from their biological home by a team of people, allowing for various ways to better meet the needs of BIPOC families. Specifically, this team needs to include BIPOC caseworkers, youth, parents, grandparents, and others with child welfare system experience.

Through its youth-led model of civic engagement, advocacy, and leadership development, OFYC, a program of Our Children Oregon, trains current and former foster youth to be heard in key decisions affecting children and youth in foster care. With their unique perspective, OFYC members participate in key child welfare advisory meetings, provide education on foster care issues, and advocate for policy change in the Oregon Legislature. Every piece of legislation proposed by OFYC members in its 12-year history, except for one piece, has been passed into law and signed by the Governor for the past six biennia. It all starts with the bi-annual OFYC Policy Conference. Legislative successes include a tuition waiver for foster youth entering community college or state university (2011); a Foster Child Bill of Rights & Foster Child’s Ombudsman (2013); access to ongoing extracurricular activities (2015); savings accounts starting at age 12 (2015); and a Foster Children’s Sibling Bill of Rights (2017).

“DHS has been involved in my life for as long as I could remember. During that time, they provided little to no support or services to help my immigrant mother recover or overcome the adversities she had to face at the hands of a country that didn’t want her,” shared OFYC member and foster youth, Kathleen R. “Hopefully, sharing these recommendations will enact change so future immigrant parents and parents of color will be given the resources and support to overcome the obstacles of systemic racism and xenophobia before having their children taken away.”

About Oregon Foster Youth Connection
Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC) is a statewide, youth-led advocacy group of current and former foster youth between the ages of 14 and 24. Members shape every aspect of what OFYC is, how it is structured, which policies to focus on, and what activities to participate in. Through peer support and adult mentorship, members have the opportunity to build community with other foster youth and grow as leaders by developing solutions for Oregon’s foster care system. Learn more at https://www.ofyc.org.

About Our Children Oregon
Our Children Oregon (OCO) brings together Children First for Oregon (CFFO) and the Children’s Trust Fund of Oregon (CTFO). The two organizations formally merged in January 2020 and relaunched as Our Children Oregon, the state’s leading non-profit, nonpartisan, research and advocacy organization working to promote child well-being and child abuse prevention. OCO serves to be a voice and force for the common good for all Oregon children, ensuring all children have the resources and opportunities they need to reach their full potential. Learn more at https://www.ourchildrenoregon.org

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