By editorial board • 

We need to get foster agencies on same page

The definition of labyrinth — a complicated and irregular network of passages where it is difficult if not impossible to find one’s way — could easily be applied to the maze of agencies committed to helping troubled children and families navigate Yamhill County’s foster care system. 

They feature different structures, ranging from public to private, state to local and faith-based to sectarian. As a result, they advocate various missions and philosophies, policies and procedures, tactics and strategies.

In fact, these agencies really share only one commonality — an abiding commitment to helping lost souls find their way back. But maybe that’s enough, if they can just determine how to communicate, collaborate and coordinate effectively — something they clearly are not doing today, according to a report based on impartial outside examination.

Labyrinth is a word we inherited from ancient Greece. In Greek mythology, it was an elaborate structure devised by Daedalus to imprison the Minotaur for King Minos.

In that form, it served a useful purpose, as the Minotaur was a fearsome creature, capable of wreaking great destruction. But labyrinthine complexities in the delivery of local services serve no positive end whatsoever. They simply frustrate and confuse the process for agencies, clients and third-party institutions trapped in the middle, notably the public school system.

The $30,000 study was authorized last November by unanimous vote of the county commissioners. The aim was to determine how the county could better support foster children, biological families and foster caretakers.

The most outspoken supporter was Commissioner Mary Starrett, who was seeking a mandate for increasing county control. Her contention was the state separates too many children from their biological families and fails to adequately support them and their surrogate caretakers once they enter state custody.

Starrett also championed a bill in the ensuing legislative session to authorize a local-control pilot project in Yamhill County. However, it stalled in the face of employee union opposition on the state end.

The report emerging from the study blames both the state and county in roughly equal measure. It recommends a task force be charged with developing a comprehensive plan for local foster care coodination. It also proposes state and county personnel engage in a facilitated all-day meeting aimed as easing festering tensions between them.

The recommendations quickly won the endorsement of county Health and Human Services Director Silas Halloran-Steiner, and to his, we add ours.

The status quo is simply unacceptable. We will be doing everyone a disservice if we allow it to continue.




Good start. I like the labyrinth metaphor. Wondering what the labyrinth looks like and really curious about the 'festering tensions' between State, County, and whoever else. Festering tensions, there has to be a story there.

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