Friday, December 4, 2015

DHS investigating 7 foster homes

Children have been removed from one foster home as part of a DHS investigation ordered by Gov. Kate Brown and increased media scrutiny of the agency.



Children at the Clackamas County foster care provider Youth Villages have been removed from the facility, according to information released Thursday from the Department of Human Services.

That information became public following DHS's fulfillment of a public records request by the Statesman Journal and other media for the DHS "radar list" of foster care providers.

The list is periodically delivered to DHS executives to alert them about providers that have a high number of complaints or high severity of complaints, a record of chronic noncompliance with rules, or anticipated media attention.

Scotts Valley School, a therapeutic boarding school in Yoncalla, has been on the list for at least 36 months, the longest of any provider. The school does not have state-placed children, but is a private organization accepting payment to house and treat troubled children. Scotts Valley School did not return phone calls Thursday.

Along with Scotts Valley School and Youth Villages, other facilities on the "radar list" are: Chehalem Youth and Family Services, of Newberg, Eastern Oregon Academy, of Burns, Inn Home for Boys, of Portland, Kairos, of Grants Pass, and Youth Progress, of Portland.

The list released Thursday did not include details of any allegations against the organizations. DHS spokesman Gene Evans declined to comment on why those facilities are on the list, although he said Youth Villages and Scotts Valley School are the most serious cases.

"We're not releasing detailed information on those yet, because that's all being redacted," Evans said.

Connie Mills, public relations manager at Youth Villages, a national organization with several campuses, said in a statement that Youth Villages is improving its programming and disagrees with some of DHS's conclusions, but is "extremely concerned about this" and "taking these issues very seriously."

"We believe in being transparent about our work and constantly enhancing our program, so we are working closely and openly with DHS," the statement said.

DHS is working with the Department of Justice to issue "intent to revoke" letters notifying Youth Villages and Scotts Valley School of corrective actions they must take to stay licensed. Those letters are expected to be publicly released following DOJ review and will include detailed information about the allegations.

The existence of the radar list was first reported after journalists learned of it at a public hearing last month. DHS officials testified to the Interim Committee On Human Services and Early Childhood about how they are working to fix problems with the agency's child care system, and mentioned the list.

Gov. Kate Brown ordered an independent review of DHS following media reports that now-defunct foster care provider Give Us This Day had allegedly pocketed upwards of $2 million meant for childcare and provided substandard living conditions. Despite knowing of abuse and mismanagement, DHS officials did not revoke Give Us This Day's license.

Following those revelations, Brown demoted acting-DHS Director Jerry Waybrant and appointed State Chief Operating Officer Clyde Saiki as interim DHS director. Saiki said he plans a "deep" investigation of DHS.

A committee has also been created to guide the investigation, which is ongoing.

gfriedman2@statesmanjournal.com, (503) 399-6653, on Twitter @gordonrfriedman or Facebook.com/gordonrfriedman