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New polls by DHM Research cast light on foster care system, public school success.

FILE PHOTO - A foster care parent holds a two-year-old child in the Gresham area. Talk about the 99 percent.

The number of Oregonians who are "very confident" in the state's foster care system now ranks at just 1 percent, according to a new poll by DHM Research. Meanwhile, 64 percent of respondents said they were not very or not at all confident in the program.

They've likely read news stories about harsh state audits and lawsuits that say foster children have been placed in unsafe situations.

It's hardly reassuring news for the 11,000 children statewide who spent at least one day in foster care in 2017. On any given day, the number of youth enrolled in the system is about 7,800.

Oregon residents not only acknowledge the problem — they want politicians to fix it. A combined 60 percent of those who answered the poll said foster care should be an "urgent" or "high" priority for the state.

Taken together, the number of Oregonians who believe that foster care is an imperative is higher than the number who want urgency on climate change or higher education.

"Respondents with children are much more likely to consider foster care an urgent or high priority than those without children," DHM Research noted in a summary of its findings. "And liberals are much more likely than conservatives to prioritize this issue."

So what's the solution? About 57 percent say one of the biggest impacts is the lack of caseworkers, while 51 percent believe it has to do with poor agency management. Only 16 percent believe the problem is too little compensation for foster parents.

Only one-third of respondents believe politicians should increase funding for foster care, and 8 percent want a pay cut. The survey of 549 Oregon residents was conducted between June 14 and 21. The margin of error was 2.5 percent to 4.2 percent.

FILE PHOTO - Student volunteers knit in the Reynolds School District. School rules

Oregon has one of the shortest school years in the nation — and about a quarter of students leave the educational system without a high school diploma.

DHM Research asked Oregonians if they think public schools are making the grade in a separate survey. Perhaps surprisingly, the pollsters found that most Beaver State residents believe the grass is a bit greener on their own side.

About 42 percent of respondents think their local school district is doing a good job of educating pupils. When they cast their eye to the statewide system, however, respondents said that only 30 percent of schools are doing well — compared with 45 percent who said their performance is poor.

As for the root causes, here's what Oregonians believe, according to DHM Research:

• 71 percent said lack of parental support is a major barrier to school success

• 66 percent said administrative waste and inefficiency are big problems

• 65 percent said it's the paucity of qualified teachers

• 65 percent also said schools need more funding

This poll surveyed 598 residents in Oregon between August 10 to August 17. The margin of error was 2.5 percent to 4.2 percent.

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