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State child welfare director resigns

SALEM — The child welfare director of the Oregon Department of Human Services has resigned after less than a year on the job.

Lena Alhusseini's resignation came just weeks after she outlined her vision for the state's child welfare system, the Statesman Journal reported.

Alhusseini moved from New York to take the job after Lois Day was fired in 2016 from the troubled agency.

Reports found foster children in Oregon were being abused at nearly double the national median rate; the abuse reporting system was not standardized; DHS did not adequately follow up on abuse investigations; and foster care providers were not well-trained for high-needs children.

An audit requested by Gov. Kate Brown found there was a rush to certify foster homes, posing safety concerns for children.

In a news release, department director Clyde Saiki thanked Alhusseini for accepting "a difficult job at a very difficult time."

"I respect Lena's vision for child welfare — a framework of community engagement and support — and that essential work will continue," Saiki said. "However, Lena and I agree that we have not been able to get the results we need to achieve."

A Statesman Journal review of agency records found that at least 44 children were severely injured or died after DHS lacked foster care screening for foster parents, failed to follow up on complaints and failed to initiate face to face contact in some cases and relied on phone calls to resolve some complaints.

Saiki said the agency must continue to push for "the culture change needed to put children's safety at the center of every decision and action."

Deputy director Laurie Price will serve as interim child welfare director.

Alhusseini replaced acting child welfare director Dr. Reginald Richardson, who stepped in after Day was fired.

She previously served as executive director of the Arab-American Family Support Center and also worked with UNICEF, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.