Lawsuit against DHS shows need for foster families

There are only 3,881 certified foster homes in Oregon

Students play outside at school. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Department of Human Services is facing a lawsuit saying foster children have spent time in emergency shelters like hotels for weeks in some cases.

One of the plaintiffs, a non-profit organization called CASA for Children, claims by doing so, DHS “exposes them to substantial risk of emotional, psychological and physical harm.”

In some cases, children would go back and forth between a hotel and other settings with a “rotating cast of adults unlicensed as foster care providers,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit shows the dire need in Oregon for more foster families to take in kids who are temporarily removed from their homes.

DHS says on average, there are 7,600 children in foster care on a daily basis in 2016 and a total of 11,191 spent at least one day in some kind of foster care. There are only 3,881 homes certified for fostering.

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, at least 130 Oregon foster children have spent time in emergency shelters like hotels since last year because there are’t enough foster parents to take them in.

The Portland Leadership Foundation has been working on a campaign called Every Child, which aims to get more Oregonians to become foster parents and to put an end to the practice of housing kids in hotels.

“In the last quarter we have 387 families inquire to become foster families, which is a record number for us,” CEO Ben Sand said. “We’ve never seen this many families say ‘yes’ and yet it is so acute that the number of kids in foster care still outpaces the number of homes available by a large margin.”

Portland Leadership Foundation CEO Ben Sand and his family after adopting a child they had fostered. (Courtesy of Ben Sand)
Portland Leadership Foundation CEO Ben Sand and his family after adopting a child they had fostered. (Courtesy of Ben Sand)

Sand wants anyone on the fence about becoming a foster parent to know it’s not as overwhelming as they might think. He became a foster parent to Julin 3 years ago and recently adopted him.

“Most people, when they consider becoming a foster parent, are afraid because they don’t know where the journey is going to take them,” Sand said. “While that’s all true, we believe there are more Oregonians that are able and willing to step forward and care for a child day to day.”

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, get more information here.