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State agrees not to put foster kids in hotels or offices

SALEM — The Oregon Department of Human Services has agreed not to house foster children in hotels or its offices unless it is an emergency, according to a settlement of a lawsuit announced on Tuesday.

In September, lawyers for foster children filed the class action lawsuit saying DHS broke the law by failing to find them appropriate housing. In the suit, attorneys described the practice of housing kids in hotels, offices, hospitals — and a jail, in one extreme case.

The Statesman Journal reported on Tuesday that the settlement was reached between the agency and lawyers for foster children on Nov. 17.

A joint statement from DHS and Youth, Rights & Justice said the settlement stipulates DHS won't place children in jails without charge or hospitals without a medical reason.

It is standard procedure for foster children to be housed in state offices or hotels if no other options are present, the Statesman Journal reported. DHS spokesman Gene Evans declined to comment when asked by the newspaper how the settlement would change agency procedures.

Richard Wexler, who leads the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, told the newspaper that nothing will change until Oregon takes steps to place fewer children in foster care. The state removes children from their homes and into foster care at a 35 percent higher rate than the national average, Wexler said.