SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In a settlement of a lawsuit, the Oregon Department of Human Services has agreed not to house foster children in hotels or its offices unless it is an emergency.
In September, lawyers for foster children filed a class action lawsuit alleging DHS broke the law by failing to find them appropriate housing. In the suit, attorneys described the practice of housing kids in hotels, offices, hospitals – and a jail, in one extreme case.
The Salem Statesman Journal reported on Tuesday that the settlement was reached between the agency and lawyers for foster children on Nov. 17 and announced on Tuesday.
A joint statement from DHS and Youth, Rights & Justice said the settlement stipulates DHS won’t place children in jails without charge or hospitals without a medical reason.
“The general society has no clue what foster parenting is all about,” said Don Darland, founder of the Oregon Foster Parent Association.
He has fostered more than 70 children in the last 25 years.
Darland said he had sympathy for the embattled department when he first heard about the lawsuit.
“I don’t think anybody really saw it coming,” he said.
DHS is in a no-win situation. It houses a total of 7,500 children in foster care on a regular basis with only 3,800 certified foster homes.
“Do we place this child in a brand new foster home that has very little experience? But the child might have huge issues. Do we risk losing them because their first placement was just not what they can handle?” said Darland.
Oregon is desperately in need of more people to become foster parents. Darland said if more parents don’t step up, more children will continue to be displaced.
“They like to buy gifts and donate to foster children, but where are the people that will step up? Maybe just take a child for the weekend?” Darland said.
To learn more about applying to become a foster parent, click here.