Lawsuit contends more kids in DHS care ‘unplaced,’ kept in hotel - KPTV - FOX 12

Lawsuit contends more kids in DHS care ‘unplaced,’ kept in hotels

Posted: Updated: Jun 27, 2017 09:00 PM

FOX 12 has uncovered new evidence in the Oregon foster care crisis that shows that the Department of Human Services is continuing to house foster kids in hotels across the state at an alarming rate.

This trend seems to be continuing despite a lawsuit filed condemning the practice last year, which DHS officials said they settled in November.

DHS claims the practice of placing kids in hotels is limited to emergencies when no other placement is available, but newly filed court documents in connection with that lawsuit paint a very different story.

Those documents allege DHS is placing foster kids in hotels not just for days at a time, but sometimes months.

FOX 12 was outside of a hotel near the Lloyd Center Monday night as state car after state car rolled into the parking lot. A source within DHS said this hotel is where many Multnomah County foster kids spend their nights.

A man and a teenage girl exited a car that’s assigned to the DHS Child and Youth Division, and both later walked into the hotel with bags in hand.

Over the course of just three hours, FOX 12 saw a total of seven cars assigned to that Portland DHS division park outside of the hotel, though it appears this was just a snapshot of what’s happening across the state. 

MORE: 'Crisis' in Oregon foster care system forcing children in motels and offices instead of homes

Documents filed in district court Tuesday in connection with a lawsuit filed against DHS last year about the practice of hoteling kids show not only is DHS continuing to house kids in hotels on a daily basis, but the practice appears to be growing at an alarming rate.

FOX 12 went to Salem Tuesday hoping to talk with DHS officials about these documents, but were repeatedly told no one from the agency could comment because of the pending court case. The governor’s office also declined to comment on this story.

The documents cite official Department of Justice data that tracked the placement of foster kids in hotels and DHS offices over the past seven months.

The documents show more than 130 kids have stayed in a hotel for some period of time, and over half of those kids were said to be 12 years old or younger.

One 9-year-old reportedly stayed in a hotel for 81 days, and a 17-year-old stayed in a hotel for 85 days.

According to that data, a majority of foster kids staying in hotels were from Multnomah County, but the practice is happening in virtually every county across Oregon.

Other court documents filed Tuesday allege that many of those kids were fed fast food for all three meals resulting in weight gain and that some unplaced kids go completely unsupervised and use illicit drugs during the day.

MORE: Gov. Brown's proposed budget for 2017 would raise reimbursement rates for foster parents

Earlier this month DHS officials confirmed plans are in motion to open a short-term shelter for use by children In need of placement. The 12-bed shelter would house kids ages 9-20, and the project is now in contracting with an expected open date of August 1, 2017.

In addition, DHS officials told FOX 12 a relationship with Maple Star of Oregon has been created whereby they will designate several of their Treatment Foster Care or TFC homes for children in need of placement this August, an effort that will focus primarily on the 8 and under age group.

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