DHS teaming up with local nonprofit as part of new initiative to - KPTV - FOX 12

DHS teaming up with local nonprofit as part of new initiative to help foster kids

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The state says right now nearly 8,000 kids are in the foster care system and they lack enough homes to support them. That's why the Department of Human Services is now teaming up with a Portland nonprofit dedicated to helping foster children. Their goal is to recruit more foster parents statewide.

Embrace Oregon began the Every Child initiative in 2015, partnering with DHS and community organizations to solve Oregon's unprecedented foster care crisis. Efforts that include recruiting foster parents and providing support to children in state care.

Each week, volunteers work to make the experience for a child in foster care warmer, providing them with food and care packages. They started the program in just three counties, but it was so successful DHS asked them to expand state wide.

"In 2015 we launched the pilot project in Lane, Jackson and Josephine counties and called it Every Child with the idea that learning of Embrace Oregon here, could be duplicated in way that made sense in other counties," said Embrace Oregon Executive Director Brooke Gray.

Gray tells FOX 12 they wanted to move that work beyond those counties after discovering an even bigger need, so they applied for a grant from DHS to expand to two more counties.

"They came back to us and rejected our proposal, but asked us to instead expand to all 36 counties in the next 5 years," said Gray.

Gray tells FOX 12 DHS wound up offering them a $1.3 million dollar matching grant to expand Every Child to every county in Oregon, because the state understands the magnitude of the foster crisis is deepening and believes this initiative might help.

Every Child is designed to scale the success of the Embrace Oregon model that brought nearly 250 new foster parent inquiries and 197 volunteers to DHS over the last two years in the tri-county area, according to the nonprofit. 

Gray says they weren't expecting that big of a grant, but are elated that their mission will be supported state wide.

By 2017, Gray says Every Child will expand to Marion, Polk and Yamhill County, and by 2021 Every Child will emerge all over Oregon.

"I think it shows this shift in posture for DHS to say we don't want to operate in silo, we need the community engaged and we need to bring more to table," said Gray. "It may look different in Portland, then it does in Burns, or in Bend, but ultimately we need everyone to come to the table if we're going to actually move the dial for children in crisis."

DHS and Embrace Oregon are gearing up to host a launch event for the Every Child Initiative on Friday at 9 a.m.

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