PORTLAND — Attorneys for two children in Oregon’s foster care system are suing the Department of Human Services, saying it violates state and federal law by housing some children in hotels and offices.
The lawyers are asking a judge to stop Oregon from placing children in such locations and instead put them in the most family-like, least restrictive environment possible, reported The Oregonian/OregonLive. They are not seeking monetary damages aside from attorney fees.
The state has increasingly turned to the practice known as “hoteling” following accusations of child abuse and neglect at a Portland foster care provider in 2015. State licensing officials cracked down on reported problems, causing some foster care programs to close.
The lawsuit says children have spent the night in Oregon’s child welfare offices and other temporary locations on at least 60 occasions since June.
A sizable portion of the children kept in temporary locations have mental disabilities and the state has described them as difficult to place with families, according to the lawsuit. It argues that the department is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other child welfare and anti-discrimination laws.
“These children are disproportionately denied — by reason of their disability — the opportunity to benefit from a state program to provide safe, nurturing homes for children and from the mental health services offered by (the state),” lawyers wrote in court documents.
Department of Human Services spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
A recent report that was commissioned by Gov. Kate Brown reached many of the same conclusions as the lawsuit. It found that the state has too few foster homes, especially those in which the parents have been trained to care for high-needs children. It also determined the state is not doing enough to recruit and train more foster parents.