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Advocates for Foster Children File Federal Class Action Lawsuit Against Oregon Department of Human Services

Lawsuit seeks to end alleged practice of parking foster children in hotels, offices and juvenile hall.

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Two groups today filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland against the Oregon Department of Human Services, seeking to end the alleged practice of warehousing foster children.

“Tonight, some of the most vulnerable children in the state of Oregon will sleep on temporary cots in state offices; in hotel rooms; in hospitals, despite being cleared for discharge; or in juvenile detention facilities, despite the absence of any criminal charge against them. Some may have spent the day sitting in a DHS office, missing school,” the lawsuit says.

“These are children over whom the state has custody. Some are as young as two years old; many are children with disabilities; all have experienced trauma. The state has removed these children from their homes despite not having any home to move them to. As experts in the field agree, the state’s practice of rendering foster children functionally homeless is unconscionable. It is also unlawful.”

Lawyers from the Oregon Law Center and Youth Rights and Justice filed the complaint on behalf of two unnamed foster children from Multnomah County who are represented by Portland lawyer Richard Vangelisti and are seeking class action status for an unspecified number of foster children whom they allege have been similarly warehoused.

The lawsuit continues a tumultuous period for DHS, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the press, legislators and outside investigators appointed by Gov. Kate Brown over the past year.

Related: Oregon DHS ignored years of complaints about troubled Portland foster care provider Give Us This Day.

Gene Evans, a spokesman for DHS, says the agency does not comment on pending litigation.