Advocate: Mental health, drug addiction resources needed to help at-risk families
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The number of children across the country in need of foster and forever homes has always been a concern. The nationwide epidemic is hitting home in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.
According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, more than 11,000 children were in some type of foster care for at least a day, while an average of 7,949 children were in foster care on a daily basis in 2018. As of September 2018, 60% of those children had two or fewer placements.
On Tuesday, NewsChannel 21 spoke with Jenna App, the executive director of CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) of Central Oregon, who says the numbers have been getting worse over the last five years. She attributes the rising need to the growing population in the tri-county area.
CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to represent and watch over abused and neglected children in the child welfare and court system.
"One thing we noticed about Central Oregon is that there aren't sufficient mental health resources, and then the housing is incredibly expensive,” App says. “So that combination is a pretty big stressor on families that are already at risk."
App says on average, a foster child moves to three different homes in their lifetime.
“Last year in Central Oregon, we had about 450 kids spend time in the foster care system and there were about 120 foster homes,” App says. “When you think about it in those terms, we could use a good three times the number of foster placements that currently exist."
When there are not enough foster placements, App says children move around more frequently and causes problems in their lifestyle.
“The main goal for the court is to reunify the children with their parents once their parents are safe and healthy,” App says.
Established in 1992, CASA of Central Oregon is a 501(c) 3 organization. For information on how to become a CASA volunteer, visit CASA’s website.