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DHS says it plans to do more to protect foster kids

By Shellie Bailey-Shah KATU News and Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. – In response to a highly critical internal report that said the state left children in foster homes despite claims parents were abusing them, the Department of Human Services admitted to mistakes Thursday and said it was trying to figure out how to better protect foster kids in the future.

This past July, foster father Warren Tripp was convicted of sodomizing and sexually abusing his 15-year-old foster daughter who was one of more than 90 children who, over the years, lived with him and his wife.

A just-released report, from an internal DHS investigation, details 16 complaints about the parents dating back to 1995. In spite of those complaints, the Tripps were recertified as foster parents every single year.

“I think if a child protective services worker investigated those reports, we would have found abuse,” said Gene Evans of the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Nationally, Oregon has an above average abuse rate going back to 1993. Last year, DHS had a record number of abuse reports, but only a third got investigated. The rest were screened out, as in the case of the Tripp family.

Over the next 90 days DHS said it will hire 130 new caseworkers to increase face to face contact with foster kids and parents. It will review all 83 abuse cases from last year, and it will review a sampling of long-time foster parents to see if they’re really fit to be taking care of kids.

 New rules, instituted over the past year, now require caseworkers to look at a foster parent’s complaint history and not just one particular incident.

When asked whether DHS should have looked at a foster parent’s complaint history over the past 10 years, Evans said that he thinks there were child protective workers doing that “just out of common sense. Now it’s the process,” he said.

 A 19-year-old woman is also suing DHS for $5 million, claiming the agency placed her with her grandfather, a convicted rapist.

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