Last week, the Oregon Department of Human Services posted over 300 new jobs in child welfare, protective services, and hotline screening, the latest attempt by the state government to build out its largest department to address years of public shortfalls and failures, particularly by the state child welfare division.
Oregon DHS has come under fire most recently for its handling of recent reports of neglect and abuse toward Oregon foster children being held in private, out-of-state facilities. Regularly scheduled hearings in the Capitol this spring unearthed deep tensions between lawmakers and DHS officials over the state’s ability to care for its foster children.
The hiring wave is partially the result of decisions by an oversight board, created by Governor Kate Brown via executive order. Despite DHS being the largest state department, the Child Welfare division is reportedly sorely understaffed, contributing to what Brown called a “crisis in Oregon’s child welfare system.”
“Hiring more child welfare workers is one important step to right-sizing the system so that it better serves our most vulnerable children and families.” said Gov. Brown, in a statement.
The jobs, posted online, range in responsibility and salary. There are positions for hotline screeners, a “first responder” position who received reports of emergencies and determines the “appropriate levels of response,” as well as on-the-ground investigative positions like Child Protective Service caseworkers and certifiers.
Most of the positions require a Bachelor’s degree and some experience in social work. Officials said monthly salaries range from around $2,700 for assistant-level positions and up to $6,700 for manager or supervisor-level positions.
Oregon DHS director Faiborz Pakseresht has high hopes the hiring wave.
“These new hires will reduce caseloads, which will help us better address safety issues and provide more support to foster families,” Pakseresht said.
By Ian MacRonald