Epidemic Of Rape and Abuse In Oregon’s Foster Care System Has Children Suing The State

Fariborz Pakseresht, director of Oregon Department Of Human Services.

The crisis in the foster care system in Oregon is reaching historic depths. An epidemic of weekly scandals is reaching peak liberal as current and former foster kids are now suing the state. Despite secretary of state recommendations following an audit last year, governor Kate Brown has decided to form yet another “Advisory Board” to study the issue, rather than actually take action.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports:

A national advocacy group filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against the Oregon Department of Human Services, alleging the agency revictimizes children in its foster care system and has failed to address documented problems for at least a decade.

The nonprofit A Better Childhood filed the lawsuit along with Disability Rights Oregon and lawyers from the firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

“The system is so overwhelmed, under resourced and ineffective that older children and children with even relatively mild behavior problems are often not placed by DHS in family homes with necessary supports and services,” the lawsuit reads.

“Instead, DHS places these children in inappropriate institutions, ships them out of state where they are placed in costly and questionable for-profit congregate programs that do not address their needs, or largely abandons them so they wind up in homeless shelters or on the streets.”

The complaint also says the state’s foster care system is so bad it can’t accurately track how dysfunctional its services are.

The lawsuit names Gov. Kate Brown, Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services Fariborz Pakeresht, Director of Child Welfare Marilyn Jones and the Oregon Department of Human Services as defendants.

The article goes on to elaborate on the claims made in the suit:

 

Wyatt, who is 3, and his younger brother, Noah, who is 1 year old, were first taken into state custody less than one year ago. Neither of them had any behavioral issues or special needs, except Wyatt has a heart condition that requires medicine prescribed to him by a cardiologist. The state’s Child Welfare office removed the children from their parent’s custody due to allegations of domestic violence and substance abuse. Once in the state’s custody, the brothers were moved to different foster homes constantly, according to a civil lawsuit filed on Tuesday. Sometimes they were moved twice within a 24-hour period. They have been in six or seven different placements. At one point, the brothers were separated and that’s when it was discovered that the older brother’s prescription heart medicine was being given to his younger brother. The younger child was hospitalized. The older child was not taken to the doctor despite missing doses of a medicine that is necessary for his heart to function, according to the lawsuit. It would be the first of two documented times the child’s medication would be overlooked. The children’s mother, who was appearing for her scheduled visits, was never notified. The children had never spent time away from their mother before the removal. After they were put into care, the oldest boy exhibited frequent fits and the younger child experienced night terrors, according to the lawsuit.

Kylie, 7, and Alec, 8, are also siblings. They have been in the care of DHS since January 2019 after allegations of neglect and abuse. The state could not find a substance abuse program for their mother to enter, according to the lawsuit. Both Kylie and Alec are very bonded to their mother and removal was traumatic. In two months, Kylie was moved to five different places, Alec to four. Kylie ran away and went back to her mother’s house at one point, according to the lawsuit. Once they were dropped off with a foster family on a Friday afternoon. The new foster parents didn’t have their last name or their insurance information. When the foster parents tried to take Kylie to the hospital because they were concerned she would hurt herself, they were unable to fill out the appropriate information and could not reach anyone at DHS. Both children also had lice, visibly crawling on their heads, which was not treated for six months.

Unique L., is a 9-year-old whose mother was diagnosed with a significant mental health condition, was verbally abusive to her children and kept them out of school. Unique was also placed in several foster care homes and treatment centers, including the emergency department of a hospital. The state eventually sent her to a locked facility in Montana. The 90-pound girl has had tantrums that resulted in 4-person holds, 2-person holds and seclusion, according to the lawsuit. She was also injected with antihistamines to calm her down unless she agrees to take the medicine orally. She is also on a course of oral medications, such as anti-psychotic and anti-convulsant/anti-epileptic although she doesn’t experience seizures, according to the lawsuit. She is also receiving little therapeutic interventions to promote self-regulation and skill development, the lawsuit reads. She has also not been visited for at least six months from anyone from the state of Oregon. DHS pays $330 a day for her care.

Simon is a 13-year-old boy who frequently had facial bruising and black eyes, scratches, bruises on his body, cut and swollen lips, according to the lawsuit. Simon told state officials they were caused by his father, beginning in 2010. More than 35 reports from mandated reporters have been made about Simon. In 2012, the state removed Simon from his home after he said he was sexually abused by a relative. He was later returned to his home. There was no effort to investigate the claims or provide counseling, according to the lawsuit. The abuser also attended the same school as Simon. The school reported Simon was credible and there was every reason to believe the abuse was happening. The school said Simon started defecating in his pants after seeing his abuser in the hallways. He also regularly arrived at school with feces in his pants, apparently in order to protect himself against further abuse. The school counselor started to treat Simon, writing, “It’s difficult to treat a child with these issues who lives in a home that is not safe, supportive and sanitary.” DHS closed the case, according to the lawsuit, and Simon remained at home for another year. Eventually, he was removed in 2017 and put into a locked facility. The state continued to struggle to find a place for Simon and they never created a plan for his behavioral and mental health needs.

But that’s not all. Foster kids are dying under the state’s watch.

Another lawsuit was filed earlier this year after a child died in a fire at a foster home:

The lawsuit contends the family’s home, in the town of Riddle, did not have working smoke detectors or meet other safety standards, so the Department of Human Services was neglectful to leave Nicholas at the home.

Under state rules, foster homes must be certified as meeting a long list of safety criteria before they gain approval to take in foster children. But according to the suit, case workers failed to make sure the Riddle home was fully equipped with fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and an evacuation plan. No one checked for alternate escape routes in case of fire, the suit said.

Combustible material left near a space heater caught fire. The flames blocked Nicholas from escaping through the door of his room, and the windows were somehow blocked, the suit said.

“Nicholas attempted to escape but was trapped and ultimately perished at the site of his room’s door jamb,” the lawsuit said.

The Department of Human Services has never publicly acknowledged the death of Nicholas in its care as part of its formal fatality review process, called a critical incident response team. By law, such reviews must take place whenever a child dies in the state’s care, but only if officials decide that they died as a result of abuse or neglect.

The Oregonian/OregonLive found in November that agency officials routinely failed to follow those laws, which include conducting the reviews on a certain timeline and publishing routine updates. Since then, the state has published nine reports regarding the deaths of eight children.

None was about Nicholas.

In another lawsuit, the state paid a $1.25 Million settlement after a 15 year old girl died under foster care due to health issues that were neglected.

In yet another lawsuit, the state paid $7 Million after two children nearly starved to death while in the care of foster parents whom the state had approved. Those foster parents were also sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.


But that wasn’t the biggest lawsuit payout. No no. The record came in 2015, when the state of Oregon paid $15 Million after nine foster children were sexually and physically abused by their state-approved foster parent:

In a record settlement for wrongdoing by a state agency, the state will pay $15 million to resolve a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of nine young children abused by a Salem foster father.

The former foster parent, James Earl Mooney, now 31, is serving a 50-year prison sentence state at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution.

His crimes came to light in 2011 after a 3-year-old disclosed that Mooney had sexually abused her, Rizzo said.

The children’s families hope that the Department of Human Services learns from this case and commits to preventing other cases of abuse, he said.

In a statement Monday, interim Director Clyde Saiki said the department “understands and admits responsibility for the damages suffered by these innocent victims.”

Mooney, who became a foster parent in 2007 at age 22, told detectives that he couldn’t remember the names of all the children he’d abused, sexually or otherwise.

Rizzo said about 30 children were placed with the Mooneys over four years. The plaintiffs were all children who stayed for several months and were repeatedly abused.

Mooney told investigators that the children’s crying upset him and he had a history of abusing animals and small children. Court records show he pleaded guilty in 2012 to five counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree sexual abuse.

Rizzo said the Department of Human Services committed a slew of failures, beginning in the certification phase, when it made Mooney and his then-wife foster parents. And the pattern of errors continued in the agency’s supervision of the Mooneys and the children in their care, he said.

Among the missteps, the lawsuit faulted department employees for allegedly ignoring escalating signs of abuse such as the children’s complaints of pain while using the toilet, redness on their buttocks and their behaviors such as biting, pulling out hair and smearing feces.

A 7 year old girl was repeatedly raped over the course of 5 years at a foster home. Her rapist made a plea deal, had the sexual abuse charges dropped, and was sentenced to time served (7 months in jail) and probation, despite her biological family’s pleas for a harsher sentence. Judge Henry Kantor even reprimanded the grandmother in court.

The rapist, Kelly Villatoro, went on to violate probation. Twice. And served a total of 10 extra days for the violations.

He was then approved for early release from probation after serving less than 3 of the 5 years.

As if that’s not disgusting enough, in still yet another unbelievable case, a man in Medford qualified to be a foster parent despite being a convicted sex offender. Predictably, he went on to repeatedly rape two little girls, ages 5 and 2. The state attorney assigned to look out for the well being of the two girls, Risa Hall, neglected to run a background check on the man, James Mobley.

The state was also sued for $1 Million in another molestation case.

Another lawsuit contended than an 11 year old boy in foster care “suffered a broken pelvis and ribs, was burned badly on his foot and chest, force-fed infant formula, required to sleep in a bathtub and thrown repeatedly in a creek and hosed down. The boy also was forced to stand outside while the other children in the home ate meals — including Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners — or snacked on popcorn and soda during “family nights.”

Another lawsuit is brewing on behalf a child after it was discovered that DHS caseworkers Mark Walsh and Kate Guy got it on in front of the child in a hotel room. Both caseworkers are on paid leave and it’s considered “non-disciplinary in nature.”

Instead of working to fix the problem, the rash of foster care deaths has resulted in the state working harder to hide data and cover up the abuse. The Oregonian reports:

Oregon child welfare officials concealed reviews into the deaths of two children on its watch, including one girl shot and killed in foster care, by claiming their deaths fell through a loophole in public reporting laws.

The Department of Human Services insisted in December that it had no obligation to tell the public about the 2017 deaths of Payshience “Tia” Adams or Colin Valencia, because case workers had concluded neither child died by neglect or abuse — despite criminal charges of aggravated murder in both cases.

But weeks after officials denied that the deaths of Tia and Colin merited mandatory reviews, the agency changed its public message. Documents say director Fariborz Pakseresht had directed employees to review the children’s deaths by November if not sooner. November was long before the agency asserted to The Oregonian/OregonLive that it had no responsibility to review what missteps may have occurred before Tia died at 10 years old and Colin died at 1.

The public reports are supposed to increase accountability and uncover systemic issues that can be fixed to save children in the future. The reviews must occur whenever a child dies by abuse or neglect after coming into contact with a case worker in year leading up to their death.

Because the deaths of Tia and Colin were deemed “unfounded for neglect,” the department told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Dec. 21 that it did not need to conduct such reviews.Yet that assertion conflicts with a list of pending reviews the agency provided to an influential lawmaker weeks later in January. The Oregonian/OregonLive received a copy Friday. The document lists “P.A.” and “C.V.” among the children whose deaths were subject to reviews that Pakseresht ordered before the agency issued its Dec. 21 statement. Withholding information about the agency’s actions before a child’s death or denying any responsibility stands to hurt a child’s surviving siblings and relatives the most, said David Kramer, a Salem attorney who has helped families sue the Department of Human Services after a child died. Most of the agency’s records are secret, so the so-called Critical Incident Response Team reports are “literally the only public record” that could alert a relative that the state may bear some responsibility for a child’s death, he said.

Scrutiny into their agency’s fatality review process intensified in November, after The Oregonian/OregonLive detailed the agency’s failure to meet statutory deadlines to disclose child deaths and documented a shift toward keeping the public in the dark about the agency’s actions in cases where children died.

Further still, DHS officials were recently under fire for sending foster kids to unused jail wings:

A move to improve the care of foster children relegated to living in hotels has resulted in 25 percent more children removed from their families being housed in institutions such as former juvenile jails, The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

The children being sent to cinderblock facilities are often the most traumatized and difficult to care for. Most are teens but the state is looking at expanding institutional programs for children as young as six.

A year ago, Oregon child welfare leaders signed a court settlement promising to stop housing vulnerable foster children in hotels, state offices and juvenile detention centers instead of with families.

State caseworkers had increasingly relied on those makeshift methods as Oregon faced a shortage of foster homes, particularly ones equipped to care for children grappling with trauma, mental health challenges or developmental disabilities.

One year after the settlement, child welfare officials say they’ve complied and begun phasing out their use of hotel rooms as temporary homes for children in the state’s care. On any given day in December, three foster children were spending the night in hotels, compared to 15 in February 2018.

But over the same time period, the state has placed dramatically more children and teens in institutional settings including repurposed juvenile jails. Since July 2018, the state has had around 400 foster children assigned to live in such settings, according to state figures. In September 2016, when two foster children and their advocates sued the state over its use of hotels, the number was close to 300.

Critics question whether former jails are the right place for foster children. And for many, such placements mean moving far from their home communities, switching to unfamiliar and sometimes segregated foster-child-only schools and losing the chance to live in the care of a parent figure instead of a rotation of shift workers.

A separate covfefe went public when it was revealed that Oregon DHS was placing children in a home where every employee had a criminal record.

As if these aren’t bad enough, a 9 year old girl in the Oregon foster system was found abandoned and drugged in a Montana facility:

In October, two Oregon Child Welfare officials flew to Montana with the girl to drop her off at a 105-bed psychiatric residential treatment facility.

For six months, no one from Oregon’s Child Welfare office visited her, according to the girl’s attorney and a state senator.

State officials said they work with independent third-party contractors who check in on the more than 80 Oregon children in foster care placed in out-of-state facilities.

But there is no record of any contracted case worker checking on the 9-year-old child either, the girl’s lawyer and a state lawmaker said.

The 9-year-old child told her biological mother she was being given shots to calm her down, said Annette Smith, the child’s court-appointed lawyer tasked with advocating for her. The child has experienced trauma, Smith said, and has emotional and behavioral challenges. But she has not been diagnosed with a psychosis. Smith said she confirmed with the facility in Montana, owned by Acadia Healthcare, that they were giving the girl injections of Benadryl and other antihistamines when the girl misbehaved.

Mary Holden Ayala, director of a foster care agency called Give Us This Day, was found guilty of embezzling $1 Million earlier this year.

According to the Juvenile Law Center, foster kids are 2.5 times more likely to end up engaging in criminal behavior, with a 90% likelihood of criminality if they were in 5 or more foster homes. It’s almost as if the state is intentionally trying to manufacture future criminals, which makes complete sense if your goal is to collapse society.

Some reports indicate there are about 8700 children in the Oregon foster care system. However, one activist who recently went over a pile of newly released documents puts that number at 12,000.

All in all, the state of Oregon, under the democrats’ watch, has spent $39 Million of taxpayer money for legal defense of all of the abuse and neglect claims made. But they don’t care. It’s not their money. It’s your money.

You can reach Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services Fariborz Pakeresht  at 503-945-5600.

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