In Oregon, when a child is not safe to remain at home due to abuse or neglect — either temporarily or permanently — the state has an obligation to step in. And when the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) does so, lawyers from the Oregon Department of Justice (ODOJ) represent them in court proceedings. This legal work is crucial to the well-being of Oregon’s most vulnerable children.
Beginning July 1, there is a new Division within the Oregon Department of Justice — the Child Advocacy and Protection Division (CAP) — focusing exclusively on this critical legal work. It is the first new division (there are now ten) at ODOJ since then-Attorney General Hardy Myers elevated the place of victims in the criminal justice system by creating what is now called the Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division (CVSSD). ODOJ’s other divisions include: 1) General Counsel; 2) Trial; 3) Appellate; 4) Criminal Justice; 5) Civil Enforcement; 6) Child Support; 7) Administrative Services; 8) Crime Victim and Survivor Services; and 9) the Attorney General’s Office.
“This is a big deal for the state — and a long time coming,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “Now that we have taken over this important legal work in every county in the state, my goal is for us at the Oregon Department of Justice to put an even greater focus on the needs of Oregon’s children. Similar to Attorney General Hardy Myers’ success in elevating the place of victims in our criminal justice system by creating a stand-alone division, we now have a division that’s devoted exclusively to our young Oregonians who are most at risk. By creating a new division whose sole responsibility is advocating for and protecting children’s well-being, we aim to make their lives better while making the systems that support them more effective.”
The new structure is the result of many years of planning. Previously, the Child Advocacy Section (formerly called “CHAS”) was the largest section within the ODOJ’s Civil Enforcement Division. Now a full division in its own right, CAP’s lawyers and staff help protect abused, neglected, and abandoned children throughout Oregon by providing vigorous court representation and comprehensive legal advice to the ODHS. Court representation takes place in all 36 Oregon counties from six regional CAP offices in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford, Bend and Pendleton. Altogether, of the 1,418 employees of the ODOJ, 100 lawyers and 92 support staff, including paralegals and administrative staff, make up the new division.
CAP lawyers also provide legal advice and representation in administrative proceedings related to foster home certification and licensing matters. Further, CAP’s supervisors and managers advise the ODHS Director and Child Welfare Directors and program leadership.
“This reorganization will be deeply consequential,” said AG Rosenblum. “I’m pleased to name Joanne Southey as Director to head our new Child Advocacy and Protection Division. Ms. Southey has been excelling at child advocacy work at ODOJ for 20 years, much of it in a leadership role. She is a highly capable, compassionate, and mission-focused lawyer, manager, and leader. She will be joined by Rahela Rehman as Deputy Director, also a longtime child advocacy lawyer and leader at ODOJ. Their team, and the work of the new Division, are in good hands.”
The other exclusively child-focused Division at ODOJ is the Child Support Division with offices throughout the state and approximately 550 of ODOJ’s employees. Led by Director Kate Richardson, the program is hugely important to the state, bringing in $1.5 million dollars a day ($547.5 million each year) in support for Oregon families.
For more information about ODOJ, its leadership and programs please go to our website at www.doj.state.or.us.