Problems at a Portland-area foster care facility have brought wider issues surrounding the state’s child care system to public attention, including making it the focus of a recent state senate committee hearing. According to a recent article in The Oregonian “the issue flared… when the Senate’s human services committee confronted the Department of Human Services over accusations that a publicly-funded foster care agency abused or neglected children with little apparent oversight from state officials.”
Charges included the withholding of food, use of force with the children and unclean and unsafe conditions in some facilities. The newspaper notes that state officials stopped sending children to one particular facility in North Portland last month, but also raised broader questions about the system as a whole. More legislative hearings are expected in the coming months and several investigations are now underway. In addition, a former employee of the facility accused colleagues of altering reports and other data to conceal the wrongdoing. The director of the facility also appeared before the committee, where she denied all of the accusations.
According to the newspaper, state officials claim that 83 percent of the children in foster care receive a visit from a state worker each month. As this case demonstrates, however, that simply is not good enough. Injuries to children in the Oregon foster care system are far more likely to occur, and will be far more difficult to prevent, as long as both public and private foster homes are able to operate with so little supervision.
As a Portland attorney with a practice focusing on injuries to children I am appalled by the facts revealed in these hearings and urge our legislators to fund and enforce the serious oversight that the children in our foster care system need. Placing any child in foster care is an enormous responsibility, and the state needs to do everything possible to ensure that the foster homes it uses meet the highest health and safety standards – and that those standards are regularly monitored and enforced.
The Oregonian: Oregon lawmakers ask scathing questions about foster kids