As the scandal surrounding, Give Us This Day, a foster care provider, and its oversight by the state grows it is becoming clear that a number of state officials did not have their priorities in order when it came to preventing Oregon injuries to children.
As outlined in a recent Oregonian article, newly released documents show that state officials were warned nearly seven years ago about possible abuses at the center. The potential dangers there grew from an operation where, according to a 2009 memo from the head Oregon’s child welfare programs, the site was unlicensed, and there were “numerous concerns… the most serious of which is that every single staff person has a criminal record.”
Yet, as the newspaper goes on to note, the event that eventually prompted the state to stop placing children with this questionable facility involved money rather than safety: allegations that Give Us This Day “had misspent nearly $2 million in state funding.” The newspaper reports that the latest batch of records released to the public “add to disturbing questions about state officials’ willingness and ability to crack down on troubled (foster care) providers.”
According to testimony given to a state senate committee by a former employee Give Us This Day “failed to provide food and clean bedding, rewrote reports, tolerated mold and rodents, and let workers use improper force.” Since that time the Governor has removed the head of the state’s Department of Human Services and “announced a review of Oregon’s foster care system.”
As a Portland attorney focused on injuries to children I believe it is important that this case not fall out of the spotlight. It is always easy for the government to announce a policy review in the wake of revelations like these. All of us who care about the way children are treated and about whether the law does enough to protect them, need to ensure that our political leaders do everything they can to understand what went wrong with the state’s foster care system and to fix it. The real mistake would be to assume that the problems stop at Give Us This Day. To offer children in Oregon’s foster care system the safety that is their right, the reviews and investigations need to look at the system as a whole. Something that failed this badly once may well fail again if instead of focusing on the oversight system as a whole we focus all our resources on understanding and punishing a single failure.