On May 1, 2020, Oregon Department of Human Services presented their quarterly update with the focus on the agency’s response to COVID-19. Rebecca Jones Gaston spoke briefly on the response from Child Welfare. She noted that in-person visitation has been suspended, but that the agency is looking to alternatives including community supervised and technology based visits. Her message to the public about Child Welfare’s response was highly positive, which belies the reality on the ground. Foster parents are facing a lot of pressure to facilitate visits and if they are unwilling or unable to do so, the agency is slow to respond with solutions. Technology is not universally available to children and their parents, and parents have other barriers such as unstable housing, lack of internet access, and disruption in services that make regular visitation difficult if not impossible.
Ms. Gaston did note that as the world moves out of lockdown and back to normal, that normal was not working for Oregon families entrenched in the foster care system. She hope that the lessons learned during these unprecedented times can be used in the future to reshape the agency to be better at meeting the needs of parents and children. My hope is that she follows through on her goals and promises, but experience makes me unsure if a better system will actually be realized.