Oregon bills could bring big changes to embattled DHS

House Bill 4080 is awaiting Governor Kate Brown's signature

The Oregon Capitol in Salem, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
The Oregon Capitol in Salem, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — The Department of Human Services could be in for a major overhaul if state legislators move forward with 2 bills this week.

House Bill 4080 already passed the Oregon House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s now awaiting Governor Kate Brown’s signature.

Oregon Representative Duane Stark is the main sponsor of the bill, which would create a commission to keep a close eye on the embattled department.

DHS leaders are finally opening up up about thousands of cases of neglect and abuse after almost a decade of silence. KOIN 6 News recently discovered many reports of foster children being sexually and verbally abused under DHS care.

“The department [was] aware that there were problems, and for whatever reason, failed to act to keep kids safe,” Senator Sara Gelser said in a phone interview.

Gelser, who is co-sponsoring HB 4080, says the legislation would help establish the Governor’s Child Foster Care Advisory Commission to keep DHS in line.

“It’s both to make sure the DHS is on track, but also to create an ongoing place where there can be a focused conversation about kids in foster care,” she said.

Another bill would create ramifications for DHS employees who fail to properly investigate claims of abuse. It will be voted on in the House and Senate this week.

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