SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — After the Oregon Department of Human Services was sued for housing foster kids in hotels, they stopped — but they started sending many more out of state. Now it appears that wasn’t a move for the better.
The children are not with foster families. They are often kids with high behavioral and emotional needs and are sent to locked psychiatric treatment centers.
Dozens of Oregon foster children that had been sent out of state to be housed in institutional settings will now be brought back to Oregon.
The Oregon Department of Human Services made that announcement Thursday as lawmakers put them on the hot seat over the policy of sending them away.
The Senate committee on Human Services questioned why there are 87 Oregon foster children that are out of the state, and they heard examples of possible abuse and neglect as a result of their placements.
In one case the lawmakers heard, a 9-year-old Oregon girl sent to a Montana facility where, her attorney said, monthly child welfare visits never happened and the girl was drugged at times with an antihistamine.
“I talked to a case manager who confirmed to me they were using PRNs, which consisted of either oral antihistamine Benadryl or Vistaril, and if she did not cooperate in taking it orally they would inject it intramuscularly,” said Annette Smith, the child’s public defender.
“There is a line that should never be crossed,” said State Sen. Sara Gelser. “And that line is injecting 9-year-olds with medications to manage behaviors that are not a safety risk.”
DHS said it will come up with a plan during the next 2 months on how to find appropriate care in Oregon for the 87 kids who were sent to different states, many because there was not enough psychiatric care facilities for juveniles here.
While state officials said they’ll work on a plan for bringing those foster children back, there is no timeframe on when.