Are kids safe in foster care? DHS director: ‘No’

Clyde Saiki acknowledged failings of his agency to and Oregon Senate committee

Oregon DHS Director Clyde Saiki, Jan. 14, 2016 (KOIN)
Oregon DHS Director Clyde Saiki, Jan. 14, 2016 (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — A hearing Thursday morning was a chance for a handful of state lawmakers to ask direct questions of the Director of the Department of Human Services about the safety of kids in foster care.

Clyde Saiki’s answers were troubling, to say the least.

Sen. Sara Gelser asked Saiki, the DHS director, if he felt “all of the children that are now in the care of the state today on January 14, 2016 are safe?”

“Chair Gelser, no. There’s no other way I can answer that question,” he said.

Oregon State Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), Jan. 14, 2016 (KOIN)
Oregon State Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), Jan. 14, 2016 (KOIN)

Saiki, who has been on the job less than 2 months, outlined breakdowns in monitoring foster care providers, processes and staff accountability that gave rise to complaints at the Give Us This Day foster care facility in Portland.

Those complaints include allegations children were denied food, people were assaulted and even raped.  KOIN 6 News obtained copies of complaints and in case after case it was noted there was “no investigation.”

Saiki acknowledged failings of his agency to the Oregon Senate Committee on Human Services and Early Childhood when it comes to supervising foster care providers and protecting children.

Oregon DHS Director Clyde Saiki, Jan. 14, 2016 (KOIN)
Oregon DHS Director Clyde Saiki, Jan. 14, 2016 (KOIN)

“We’re working very hard to make sure we get to that place but the way you ask that question, I can’t answer yes,” he told Gelser, a Democrat from Corvallis. “It bothers me and it keeps me up at night.”

Republican Alan Olson of Canby wanted to know why Saiki didn’t fix problems with the DHS monitoring of Oregon’s foster care system when he was deputy director of the agency between 2006 and 2010.

Saiki said he’d heard about concerns at Give Us This Day, but said he supervised several other programs that prevented him from having time to get more involved.

“How do we get through this abyss we’re in because, as the deputy director, if you were just on the periphery of this, who is the one that’s going to have their hands on it and fix it if its not the director or the deputy director?”

Saiki told the committee he hopes to sign contracts with an outside agency to do an independent review of the state’s foster care system within the next 2 weeks.  By next summer he’s asked for a full review and a plan of action.

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