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Another black eye

For Oregon’s troubled Child Welfare system, the hits just keep on coming. The latest pummeling comes from State Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who convened a hearing after she learned that a 9-year-old girl was shipped off to a Montana psychiatric residential treatment center in October and no Oregon official visited her for six months.

The child is one of more than 80 Oregon children being treated in out-of-state, for-profit psychiatric facilities because there is no place for them in Oregon.

Not only did no Oregon official visit the girl, but independent, third-party contractors who were supposed to do so didn’t either.

Marilyn Jones, director of Oregon’s Human Services Child Welfare Division, wrote in an op-ed in the Salem Statesman Journal in February that half of the state’s specialized care beds — 67 — have been lost since 2015. Most of the more than 8,000 youths in the foster care system are cared for in-state, but the most challenging cases must be sent to facilities equipped to handle them.

That’s fair enough. But state officials won’t say whether any of the children being treated out of state have received visits. That’s unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Oregon taxpayers are spending more than $10,000 per child per month on this treatment.

It is unconscionable that it took publicity and legislative pressure to prompt official review of the treatment these most vulnerable Oregon foster children are receiving.

Lawmakers should bring them home. And give Child Welfare the shakeup it deserves. Too many of our children are suffering at the hands of a system that’s operated without accountability for far too long.

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