When the state of Oregon takes a child from their home, child welfare officials assume responsibility for their health and happiness, and for ensuring each youngster receives the care and treatment needed to succeed.
But emails, case files and interviews show that for children in foster care who were sent across state lines, Oregon largely trusted a private, for-profit company to ensure they were safe.
The result is a litany of disturbing outcomes: tales of abuse, neglect and vulnerable children left to fend for themselves.
Oregon Foster Children Placed In Out-Of-State Facilities
Between 2016 and 2018, the number of foster children Oregon leaders sent to residential treatment facilities out-of-state increased by 168%. Children, some as young as 9, were scattered across 16 different states. The majority of them were placed in facilities owned or operated by one company.
When pushed to explain the jump, Oregon child welfare officials pointed to dwindling options in Oregon where they could house children in foster care. They also said kids were being sent to facilities with unique programs to meet the specific needs of each child.
But a review of case files, thousands of emails and interviews with foster youth unearthed a more complicated reason for why Oregon’s use of out-of-state facilities jumped so quickly: A private, for-profit business called Sequel won the right to house the state’s most vulnerable children in large part because its marketing executives built a relationship with beleaguered and increasingly desperate child welfare workers.
The farther away Oregon kids went, the harder it became for anyone back home — especially the state officials serving as their legal guardians — to hear their voices or track their basic safety and well-being.