Recognizing The Good Work of Caseworker Jamie Ruiz-Gonzalez


Two Child Welfare workers are giving a special shout out to a colleague – Jamie Ruiz-Gonzalez — for her work in a recent, complex adoption in Multnomah County – and the thoughtful event she planned for this child’s special day.  

Cindy Logan, Adoption and Guardianship Facilitator and Lea Turner, Legal Assistance Specialist, both in the Central Office Adoptions Unit, took notice of Ruiz-Gonzalez’s work in the recent adoption of a five-year-old boy. Ruiz-Gonzalez is a permanency caseworker and this was only her second adoption case.

“Jamie walked into a complex case. There had been a lot of work done before she came on and she was able to take a new look and energy to move the case forward. Jamie is very engaged, positive, optimistic and always tries to do the good work,” Turner said.

The case began in 2017 and Ruiz-Gonzalez was assigned in 2020. It was a complex case because of the many changes of plan it entailed due to a variety of factors. Making things even more complex, courts were on a pause in the beginning of the pandemic, also delaying permanency for this child.

Long-term foster care with an undetermined permanency plan is extremely confusing and difficult for a child. The first goal for a child is to reunify them safely with parents. If that is not possible, the caseworker’s role is to establish permanency for a child through another plan. This specific child had experienced instability throughout his life and lived with anxiety that manifested itself in emotional outbursts and difficulty in his daily tasks. Once this child learned that his foster home would be his adoptive home, there was a clear improvement in his behaviors and he was able to focus on being a child and enjoying his family.

“It was challenging for him not knowing what his permanency plan was. He was counting down the days to his adoption day. This was a child who needed his adoption finalization,” Turner said.

“Jamie was able to step in and move planning forward with empathy and engagement for all involved and ultimately this led to this boy’s adoption,” Turner said.

Ruiz-Gonzalez went the extra step in this adoption. She wanted to make the day that the court finalized his adoption a special day.

“She talked to his adoptive parent about what would make his day special. This little boy really liked police officers and firefighters, so Jamie made some phone calls with the Portland Fire Department and there was back and forth communication. The Portland Fire Department was going to do their best to help make this little boy’s adoption day extra special,” Logan said.

After the adoption ceremony in front of the judge, everyone involved in the court’s decision that day went outside for the big surprise. Ruiz-Gonzalez talked with the fire department’s dispatch and was able to coordinate just at the right time for the big, red fire trucks to slowly drive by with the trucks’ lights and sirens on while the firefighters waved to the child and his family. Everyone was very excited about the fire trucks. The child sat on his uncle’s shoulders to get a good view of the trucks and to wave back.

Ruiz-Gonzalez said that it definitely feels good to be recognized for her work.

“It’s a really hard job and it’s not always happy ending in an adoption case. But in this case, it was,” she said.

She explained that she approaches each case by first building a relationship with those involved.

“Sometimes it’s just creating some inside jokes I have with the child. I also try to understand how each partner in the case operates and learn their communication styles — meeting them where they are and then advocating for them in what works for them individually. In this case I have never seen a five-year-old so involved in advocating for his adoption. That resource parent was the one with him almost from the beginning. I knew how much he had been waiting for his adoption day. I wanted to give him some happy memories about being in a court room.”

About Author

Christine Decker is a Public Affairs Specialist for the Oregon Department of Human Services. Before working in communications she was a working journalist.

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