The treatment of foster children from Oregon who are sent to out-of-state facilities is now a subject of fierce inquiry by elected officials including Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis). The first in a series of ongoing hearings on the subject happened Tuesday, April 23, and revealed deep tensions between legislators and Health and Human Services Department officials who oversee the state’s foster children program.
Sen. Gelser has become outspoken in calling for accountability after an investigation by OPB in February found these children are often held in prison-like conditions and subject to a wide range of physical abuses and emotional neglect. Some of these for-profit facilities are located adjacent to the grounds of operating prisons.
After Sen. Gelser described the conditions in which some foster children reportedly live, then stating that she had “lost confidence in this agency,” Oregon’s Director of Human Services, Faiborz Pakseresht, decided to fire back.
“These should not be public shaming sessions,” Pakseresht said, adding later, “If I’m not the right person to do this job, then it’s a pretty simple fix.”
Pakseresht went on to say that these public hearings wouldn’t help improve the agency, and neither would Gelser “putting him on the spot.”
Sen. Gelser responded that she’s “not concerned” about how the agency feels, but instead about the feelings of the foster children “who are being hidden…who have absolutely no one to speak for them.”
“Real life goes on for these kids,” she said. “They don’t get their childhoods back.”
By Ian MacRonald