New lawsuit accuses DHS of ‘warehousing’ children

"DHS can only be as strong as the community that surrounds it" foster parent said

After a decade of silence, state leaders are opening up about thousands of cases of neglect and abuse with the Department of Human Services. (KOIN)
The sign on the DHS building. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new federal lawsuit accuses the Department of Human Services of “warehousing” foster children, or temporarily placing them in hotels, offices and sometimes even detention centers.

But, a local foster parent and advocate told KOIN 6 News the lawsuit is misguided. Kristine, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, said DHS workers only take the severe measure of placing kids in hotels — under supervision — when they’re left with no choice.

“They’ve already been turned down by every family because they’re all at capacity,” Kristine said. “Then it’s like, well what is the alternative? What is the option?”

According to DHS, after being in foster care, most children are reunited with their parents, stay with a family member or get adopted. But 3.5% of them aren’t as fortunate, and in those cases, some DHS workers takes matters into their own hands.

Kristine, a 23-year-old foster parent who works full-time, says the lawsuit against DHS is misguided. (KOIN)
Kristine, a 23-year-old foster parent who works full-time, says the lawsuit against DHS is misguided. (KOIN)

Still, the attorney representing the groups suing DHS says it’s wrong.

“Foster kids have a legal right to be placed with a relative or a caregiver or a certified foster home,” attorney Richard Vangelist said.

But, as Kristine pointed out, what happens to the children who have no relatives when DHS can’t find a caregiver or every foster home is booked?

In 2015, there were over 2,000 children in foster care in Multnomah County alone. But there were only 728 foster homes, leaving about 1,400 kids with nowhere to go.

“DHS can only be as strong as the community that surrounds it,” Kristine said. “When the community isn’t stepping up and isn’t providing homes… DHS has no way to thrive. They have no way to do their jobs when there aren’t enough homes.”

Kristine is only 23 and works full-time. She said, if she can be a foster parent, anyone can. The process is relatively easy and DHS will provide you with all the necessary materials to house a child temporarily until they can find a forever family.