State attorneys seek dismissal of Oregon foster care lawsuit

State attorneys are seeking to dismiss a sweeping federal lawsuit targeting Oregon's troubled foster care system.

Posted: Jul 26, 2019 12:17 PM
Updated: Jul 26, 2019 2:17 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — State attorneys representing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Department of Human Services filed a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit targeting Oregon's troubled foster care system, arguing in part that the state is already taking significant action to address child welfare.

The motion, filed Thursday, responds to a lawsuit filed in April arguing that the state violated foster children's federal and constitutional rights by not providing them proper care. The suit said DHS failed to protect the 7,500 foster children in its custody from harm and cited numerous examples, including a case involving a nine-year-old girl who was sent to an out-of-state facility where she was drugged and physically restrained by staff.

In its motion to dismiss, the state argues the federal court system cannot compel changes to Oregon's foster care system and that improving child welfare is "a task that must be left to Oregon's juvenile courts and state government." Brown and other top leaders at DHS have also released comprehensive plans to address challenges identified in the lawsuit making litigation unnecessary, attorneys argued.

Brown signed an executive order in April convening a Child Welfare Oversight Board to introduce and implement changes to the foster care system regarding out-of-state placements, a shortage of foster homes within Oregon, and complaints from child welfare workers that they are overworked and understaffed. DHS announced this week that it is prepared to hire over 300 additional child welfare workers, a move driven by the governor's executive order.

But the national advocacy group A Better Childhood, which filed the original lawsuit, said it's too early to tell if state's course of action can adequately address the scope of the problem.

"You can't dismiss a lawsuit just because the state promises to be better," said Marcia Lowry, executive director of the New-York based nonprofit. "The state has good intentions, but for ten years they've been making recommendations on how to fix the problem without any real results."

A Better Childhood, which has filed similar lawsuits in other states, has two weeks to respond to the state's motion to dismiss. A judge would decide whether or not to move forward with the case.

Jake Sunderland, a spokesperson for DHS, said the department "cannot comment on this litigation at this time."

Federal judges have issued mixed rulings on suits targeting state foster care systems. A Florida court dismissed a similar case in 2003, while a Texas appeals court this month upheld a court ruling compelling the state to make significant changes to its child welfare system.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 191405

Reported Deaths: 2530
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah37970584
Washington25360229
Marion21814306
Clackamas17186209
Lane12838145
Jackson10733135
Deschutes870374
Umatilla814084
Linn482867
Yamhill442275
Klamath433061
Polk371052
Malheur350461
Josephine330868
Douglas322570
Benton303919
Jefferson217034
Coos204933
Columbia171526
Union144423
Lincoln137120
Wasco137028
Hood River118130
Morrow110115
Crook107320
Clatsop9728
Baker94614
Curry6459
Tillamook6403
Grant5065
Lake4447
Harney3388
Wallowa1825
Gilliam621
Sherman581
Wheeler281
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 3758137

Reported Deaths: 62314
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123565124022
Riverside2990644587
San Bernardino2965964707
San Diego2779493725
Orange2707445008
Santa Clara1189012085
Kern1090311373
Sacramento1042081672
Fresno1016761684
Alameda876331545
Ventura808421011
San Joaquin730091391
Contra Costa68582803
Stanislaus619161055
Tulare49554839
Monterey43563382
San Mateo41871568
San Francisco36642543
Santa Barbara34317456
Solano32752249
Merced31743458
Sonoma29984318
Imperial28373721
Kings22971246
Placer22550290
San Luis Obispo21282260
Madera16442242
Santa Cruz16188206
Marin14037228
Yolo13894209
Shasta12071226
Butte11962199
El Dorado10111113
Napa985381
Sutter9413111
Yuba622146
San Benito604863
Lassen569824
Tehama556362
Nevada471675
Tuolumne412364
Mendocino406149
Humboldt393939
Amador365247
Lake347043
Glenn238225
Colusa223016
Siskiyou218123
Calaveras212153
Inyo142638
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