Oregon’s Department of Human Services foster care problems continue to grow. According to an article on the Oregon Public Broadcasting website, at least one of the 80-plus foster children who’ve been sent out of state has been sometimes drugged and no representative of the state has visited her for six months.
The out-of-state placements can be problematic enough, but it’s worse if the state fails to regularly oversee the care.
The number of out-of-state placements has more than doubled since 2017, when, under pressure, Oregon began working hard to end its practice of keeping some foster children in hotels. Some now go out of state. Others are being held in former juvenile jails in Oregon.
The child who has been drugged is a 9-year-old being held at a Montana psychiatric facility. Her plight gained public attention when her Oregon public defender and her mother complained. The Montana facility says it was giving the girl shots of Benadryl to calm her down.
In theory, Oregon officials are required to visit the girl once a month. For out-of-state cases, however, the state contracts with others to make those visits. Yet the girl’s lawyer says neither the state nor the contractor has seen the girl in six months. In March, OPB asked the state for a copy of its contract with the third-party agency or person hired to visit the girl but did not receive it until Friday morning.
Without that, it’s impossible to tell what the state expected the contractor to do and how the state planned to verify that those expectations were being met. If it did have a verification plan, the plan was either inadequate or never actually implemented.
Oregon’s most vulnerable children deserve much better at the hands of the state agency charged with caring for them. Oregonians deserve to know how well that agency is doing its job. They cannot make that determination as long as contracts like the one in Montana are hidden from the public.