Head of Oregon Child Welfare Office Abruptly Resigns

Marilyn Jones, head of the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare division, resigned effective immediately on Wednesday, June 26 at the behest of Governor Kate Brown. Jones was appointed to fix this agency, but instead oversaw some of its worst public failures.  

Brown appointed Jones 18 months ago in 2017 and tasked her with “turning around” the agency after multiple scandals and mistakes, some involving foster children being kept in hotels. However, Jones and other DHS officials were called before the legislature this spring when reports broke of Oregon foster children being held in poor conditions, and in some cases physically abused or drugged in private, out-of-state facilities.   

Jones’ failure to accomplish the original mandate was part of Brown’s reason in asking for her resignation.  

Oregon foster children were found in private facilities, many owned by Sequel Youth and Family Services, a for-profit company. Some of these facilities were located on the campus of active prisons. At the Red Rock Canyon School in St. George, Utah, also owned by Sequel, administrators called in police to suppress a riot staged by teenagers in the facility.   

Further reporting revealed that a 9-year-old girl from Oregon was “abandoned by state regulators… and sometimes drugged” at a facility in Montana. Advocates for the girl reached out to Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), who has become a central investigative force on this issue. Gelser said she “pressed” Jones for information about the girl, and Jones “gave [Gelser] a name for a program that didn’t exist in Montana.”  

Other states, like Washington, no longer send their out-of-state foster children to these facilities, but Oregon has yet to sever ties despite these reports.  

By Ian MacRonald