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DHS Leaders Provide Update Amid Staff Turnover, Foster Care Concerns

Oregon Department of Human Services Director Clyde Saiki addresses stakeholders during a meeting at the agency's headquarters in Salem.
Chris Lehman
/
Northwest News Network
Oregon Department of Human Services Director Clyde Saiki addresses stakeholders during a meeting at the agency's headquarters in Salem.

Leaders of the Oregon Department of Human Services are assuring the public that the agency is committed to its mission despite recent turnover in management. That message came during a pair of public meetings Friday.

DHS Director Clyde Saiki's opening remarks reflected the rapid changes underway in the agency's key staff.

"We've had some leadership changes in the department, so there are a couple of people I want to introduce,” Saiki said.

One of those people was Reginald Richardson, who's wearing several hats at DHS including the interim head of the foster care program.

"The director and I have really been focused on making sure that we are paying attention to safety, permanency for our children, as well as well-being,” Richardson said.

Oregon's foster care system has come under scrutiny amid reports that DHS has been slow to investigate potential abuse cases and that some providers have been misusing state funds.

Saiki himself is relatively new to the job, having been named by Governor Kate Brown the director of DHS in March, pending confirmation by the Oregon Senate. Saiki had been serving on an interim basis since last November, and had worked in various state government roles for many years.

Since then, Saiki has removed several top staffers at the department, including the head of the foster care program.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.