Sen. Gelser Targets Racial Disparity in Foster Care System

This week, Corvallis Democratic State Senator Sara Gelser brought attention to the disproportionate amount of children of color that Oregon is sending to private, out of state foster care facilities. During Wednesday’s floor session, she revealed that 13 of the 83 children sent out of state, 15.7 percent, are black, compared to the six percent national percentage of African American foster children. She also explained that 12 of the children sent out of state, or 14.5 percent, are of indigenous heritage, compared to the six percent of national foster population that is indigenous.

“I think it’s important we know who they are, that they know we’re thinking of them and that we’ve not forgotten them,” said Gelser.

Oregon has recently been sending more foster children to private, out of state, for-profit institutions. Some institutions that Oregon utilizes, specifically the Clarinda Academy run by Sequel Youth and Family Services, have recently come under fire for subjecting children to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. For these reasons and others, an advocacy group called A Better Childhood has filed a class action lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Human Services.

“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,” reads the lawsuit.

A Republican State Senator joined Gelser in condemning the apparent racism in the state’s foster care system.

“Oregon is not absent from the institutionalism of racism,” declared Sen. Jackie Winters of Salem. “We have done better than this, and if I have to stand up every session and talk about this, I will,” she continued. “Let’s make Oregon once again the Oregon we can be proud of and take care of our children.”

-By Jay Sharpe