Are Oregon foster children safe? DHS director says ‘No’ – Statesman Journal
The top official of Oregon’s Department of Human Services had a simple answer Thursday when legislators asked if children in the state’s foster care system were safe:
“No,” said Clyde Saiki, interim DHS director.
The state’s foster care system has been under intense scrutinyÂ since this summer when news broke that Portland-based foster care provider Give Us This Day did not provide adequate conditions for children in its care. According to recently released documents, allegations of prolonged sexual abuse against children atÂ Give Us This Day facilitiesÂ were not investigated by the state.
The organization’s former director, Mary Holden, is alsoÂ accused of stealing $2 million in public funds allocated forÂ child care. The federal government isÂ investigating the case, and Give Us This Day is now defunct.
Two other care agencies â Youth Villages and Scotts Valley School â have had abuses revealed, and the state has moved to revoke their licenses. Youth Villages announced in DecemberÂ that it would close its facility near Lake Oswego.
Lawmakers said Thursday the state will attempt to pull the license of a third care agency. That agency has not been publicly named.
During a meeting of the Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood, Lois Day, who runs DHS’s foster care system, admitted she provided inaccurate information to lawmakers at a previous hearing. Day told legislators that children were removed from Youth Villages whenÂ none had actually been moved.
Committee chair Sen. Sarah Gelser, D-Corvallis, told Day she is dissatisfied with the “severe factual errorâ and “false statements” given to the committee and the press. Gelser also said DHS officials told her publicly and privately they were not aware of ongoing abuse. Yet emails released by Gelser show agency officials were notified of abuse, yet did not act.
Gelser has met with foster children and said their stories were “horrifying,” including allegations that girls were not allowed to buy tampons, refused foodÂ and not allowed to call their case worker inÂ violation of the Oregon Foster Children’s Bill of Rights.
When asked whether he had knowledge of abuse at Give US This Day in his previous position as DHS’s deputy director,Â SaikiÂ said he was “peripherally involved.”
Saiki also testified that he isn’t sure of the state’s potential monetary liability due to the federal investigation or potential civil suits.
The internal and external investigations of DHS ordered by Gov. Kate Brown are ongoing. Lawmakers on the committee are also considering potential bills that would make it easier for DHS to shut down foster homes. It’s expected those bills will be proposed during the February legislative session.
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