Friday, November 13, 2009

Unintended Consequences

I used my daughter as a model for a photo illustration to go with this story, it can be found here. The Monday after the story was published an assistant DA called me to as if the child in the photo needed foster care. I think that means it worked.

Published Dec. 16, 2005, in the Keizertimes

Last week, the Oregon Department of Human Services removed two children from their Keizer home as the result of a heroin bust.

The situation is far from rare, officials say. Marion County leads the state in removing kids from their homes, more than 1,000 this year, according to statistics from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Most of these cases are the result of drug busts.

“Two years ago we started the No Meth Not in My Neighborhood program, and this has been one of the unintended consequences,” said Chuck Lee, Keizer city councilor.

No Meth Not in My Neighborhood encourages awareness among individuals and businesses about the growing problem of methamphetamine abuse. This has led to increased arrests and more displaced children.

To combat the growing crisis in the foster care system, Lee is issuing a challenge for the residents of the city: Find room in your hearts and homes for Keizer’s foster children.

“The numbers are alarming,” said Lee.

Within a three-mile radius of Claggett Creek Middle School, there are 386 foster children and only 56 certified foster homes. Around Whiteaker Middle School, there are 224 foster kids and 37 homes. However, there is some overlap between the two areas.

While the reasons for a child entering foster care are varied, the system has been hemorrhaging largely because of the increased crackdown on methamphetamine abuse.

Nearly half of the children removed from homes are 5 years old or younger.

To meet the needs, the Marion County branch of the Oregon Department of Human Services wants to add 100 more certified foster homes to the system by the end of the year.

However, adding more homes won’t remedy one of harshest aspects of the foster care system.

“These kids aren’t only losing their parents, homes, schools and neighborhoods. They’re often losing siblings as they get divided by the system,” Lee said.

Preventing the break-up of siblings is the core goal of a receiving home run by Catholic Community Services.

“Siblings are taken to the receiving home for up to a week while the social workers look for foster care or more permanent placement that would allow brothers and sisters to stay together,” said Mary Marshall, communications director of Catholic Community Services.

CCS is currently looking for space and funds to build another receiving home to meet the increasing demand.

While Lee and his wife, Mary, are not currently foster parents, he is no stranger to the system.

“When I was growing up, my mother provided foster care for newborn babies that would stay with us for up to a year or two. By the time I was 17, I had 71 foster brothers and sisters,” he said.

Lee’s family adopted the 72nd one, his sister, Joanie.

“We got tired of seeing them go,” he said.

For more information or to begin the process of becoming a certified foster home contact the Oregon Department of Human Services at 503-378-6800.

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