The Oregon Department of Human Services continues to keep quiet after FOX 12 investigators uncovered new evidence showing foster kids are being placed in hotels for days or sometimes for months.
The practice was condemned in a lawsuit brought against DHS last year, and the agency claimed it would only place kids in a hotel on an emergency basis. However, court documents show more than 130 foster kids stayed in hotels in the last seven months.
DHS administrators told FOX 12 that based on the advice of their attorneys at the Department of Justice they cannot comment on the newly filed court documents.
Administrators did tweet out a quarterly report to Governor Brown Wednesday that is shining some light on their perspective of the situation.
The tweet links to a letter written and signed by DHS Director Clyde Saiki and dated June 22 which outlines plans the agency has for addressing child safety.
Saiki claims in the letter that the state certified some 660 foster families and placed children in their homes during the first quarter of 2017. It also mentions the agency’s plans to open a short-term shelter for kids in need of placement called the Willamette Cottage.
Additionally, Saiki wrote their partnership with Every Child yielded some 387 foster family and adoption inquiries, but Brooke Gray, the executive director of that organization, admits the agency faces many challenges.
“When we talk about what's needed to solve the problem, there's certainly no silver bullet,” she said. “We all recognize that the greatest way to move the dial in the crisis is having more foster families.”
Gray and volunteers with Every Child work to recruit foster families in partnership with DHS. She said they're doing all that they can to recruit more families, and are now even putting out radio ads and TV spots.
She told FOX 12 she posts about the placement crisis on the Embrace Oregon Facebook page almost every day. One post from June 21 states that some 71 children in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties were in need placement.
“I feel like anyone who lives in this city is saddened that that's the state that our community is in,” Gray said. “I think it's easy for us to point our fingers and there's a human desire to do so, but at the same time what we recognize is that what we should want as a community is to link arms with the Department of Human Services and recognize that the children in our community are just that. They're our children, they’re not DHS children.”
Oregon's foster children are spending, on average, 11 days in a hotel according to documents obtained by FOX 12. That number jumps to 20 days for kids living in Multnomah County. In some cases, those documents reveal kids spend months in a hotel because there's nowhere else for them to go.
Gray said she’s determined to change that.
“I would encourage anyone in the community who saw that story and had the same grief stricken feeling and emotion, to ask themselves what they can do,” she said. “The answer is each of us bringing what we can to the table and the story we have to tell is that we all have something to bring.”
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