Welfare Home Visits “Flopped”


Welfare Home Visits “Flopped”

The Department of Human Services Helps Few Families

Welfare Home Visits “Flopped”

News Release

An Oregon Department of Human Services report on the results of its effort to conduct home visits of clients in the Portland and Salem regions shows the effort “flopped” and was “misguided, ill-designed, and inefficient” according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, who obtained a copy of the report under the state’s public records law.

“The Department set a goal of visiting 900 to 1,000 households to find out how the agency could help them become self-sufficient. They then managed to select only 782 households to visit and sent out a team of 166 staff who accomplished only 368 visits, less than half the homes on the list. And even at those homes, they found out from only 213 what help they needed to become employed. Getting that information from only 213 out of 782 is an embarrassingly poor performance,” said Charles Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

“The report makes clear that the Department of Human Services’ visitation program was misguided, ill-designed, and inefficient. In short, it flopped,” he added.

“The Department sent high level employees, such as Deputy Director Donnie Griffin and Assistant Director Lennie Bjornsen, to talk to welfare families, and they failed miserably,” said Sheketoff. “The agency staff talked with fewer than half the homes they were assigned, and then got answers to questions on their questionnaire from about only 60 percent of the homes they actually visited.

Sheketoff said the program “was doomed from the start because they chose not to treat the families with dignity and respect by first making appointments. Not only was it rude, the agency’s low success rate shows that the unscheduled visits were an inefficient use of central office staff time and were ill-designed.”

Sheketoff said the Department should be embarrassed by the report, noting that many of the questions, such as “What can we do to help you become employed” were answered by fewer than 220 of the 782 households on the visitation list. “If the Department was truly focused on helping people get jobs, why ask this of only 213 of the 368 households visited?”

“The Department went to great lengths before the visits began to claim that their purpose was to help people and not to conduct eligibility checks. Their own data contradicts those claims,” said Sheketoff. He noted that the Department paid much more attention to looking for who is actually living in the household and for the role of absent parents, both eligibility issues. The Department obtained answers to the “who is in the household” question from 320 households, and answers to the “absent parent role” question from 290 households.

“The focus was ‘are you eligible?’ not ‘how can we help you?’ Otherwise, they would have had answers from more of the homes they actually visited. Instead, the report makes patently clear the visitors were focused on looking for who is in the household and whether absent parents are supporting the child or children,” said Sheketoff.

Sheketoff noted that “some of the numbers do not add up correctly or make sense” and has made a public record request for copies of the actual survey forms with the client identifying information removed. “We need to see the actual survey forms to understand better why the Department failed so miserably in getting answers from the houses they visited and failed to visit a majority of the homes,” said Sheketoff.

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Written by staff at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

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