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Oregon brings kids with special needs back to state

September 4, 2019

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The state of Oregon has brought back dozens of children with special needs from out-of-state facilities where they were sometimes subjected to deplorable conditions.

Gov. Kate Brown’s Child Welfare Oversight Board said Wednesday that currently 37 children in the child welfare system are being served in an out-of-state facility, down from as many as 88.

Some of those children had been housed in Red Rock Canyon School in St. George, Utah. The school has been understaffed, leading to violence, sexual misconduct and an unsafe atmosphere, Utah’s Department of Human Services said in a May notification to the school’s owners. A riot occurred in the facility on April 28, during which staff made degrading comments to residents, escalating the situation.

Licensing investigators uncovered numerous other instances of mistreatment, abuse and disrespect toward residents. The facility’s parent company announced on July 9 it would close.

Oregon also sent vulnerable children to the for-profit Clarinda Academy in Iowa. Iowa’s Department of Human Services said some staff at Clarinda slammed children to the ground and injured them while punishing them, and kept several students for weeks at a time in a suspension room, according to a report in the Des Moines Register, citing state documents.

Oregon intends to develop additional psychiatric residential treatment services, hire caseworkers and work more closely with families, Brown’s office said in a statement. The state aims to develop capacity for an additional 15 beds by the end of the year.

“In order to bring children in out-of-state facilities back to Oregon, we need to develop more capacity here to serve children with complex needs,” Brown said.

In July, the Oversight Board recommended statewide recruitment of 300 child welfare workers. The Department of Human Services says it expects to have a majority of the positions filled by the end of October.

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