SALEM — Two programs that care for foster children and troubled teens could lose their state licenses following a recent review, the Oregon Department of Human Services announced Thursday.
The agency is working with the Oregon Department of Justice to draft “intent to revoke” letters to Scotts Valley School, a therapeutic boarding program south of Eugene, and the Youth Villages foster care agency which operates facilities in Lake Oswego and Oregon City. As a result of the review, the state also stopped placing foster children at Youth Villages programs and moved the children who were already there to other placements, DHS spokesman Gene Evans wrote in an email Thursday.
Top officials at the agency knew there was trouble at Scotts Valley School, because they had flagged it on an internal list of problematic service providers known as the “radar list.” Yet the agency had not revoked or even denied the renewal of licenses for any organizations on the list since it was created 36 months ago, according to DHS testimony at a legislative hearing last month.
The letters are a “due process step” the state must complete before revoking the licenses, and they will lay out corrective actions Scotts Valley School and Youth Villages must complete in order to continue operating, according to DHS. The agency did not release any information Thursday about the type of problems that led officials to start the license revocation process.
Connie Mills, manager of public relations for Youth Villages, said in a statement that the organization takes the state’s concerns seriously and is making improvements to the program.
“While we disagree with some of DHS’s conclusions, we are extremely concerned about this and are taking these issues very seriously,” Mills wrote. “Our No. 1 goal always is to provide the very best care for young people. DHS has asked us to hold off on admissions to our residential campus program for the time being. They have some questions about this program and we are actively addressing those while we work with DHS on a corrective action plan.”
Mills wrote that this will include “enhancing supervision of youth by significantly increasing highly skilled and trained staffing, as well as conducting additional trainings and evaluating other areas in which we can make improvements.”
“We have a long history of providing care for Oregon’s youth who face some of the biggest challenges, and our commitment to caring for them is steadfast,” Mills wrote.
Staff at Scotts Valley School did not respond to a request for comment late Thursday afternoon.
DHS officials decided to take action against the programs amid scrutiny of the agency’s handling of problems at another foster care agency, Give Us This Day in Portland. Willamette Week reported on problems at Give Us This Day starting in September, and the newspaper has since reported that top officials at the agency knew about the issues and did nothing.
The Nov. 25 review also took place a week after news organizations including the EO Media Group/Pamplin Media Group Capital Bureau filed public records requests for information on the other state-licensed facilities DHS had flagged on its internal “radar list.” Interim DHS director Clyde Saiki called together top agency managers on the eve of Thanksgiving to conduct the review of other children’s services organizations on the list, Evans wrote.
DHS released the information Thursday to news organizations, at the same time the agency announced its planned action against Scotts Valley School and Youth Villages.
Scotts Valley School had been flagged for problems more than 30 out the last 36 months, more than any other DHS-licensed facility, according to information provided to lawmakers during a Nov. 16 hearing. At the time, the agency did not identify the school as the entity that had been on the list for so many months.
The criteria to get on the list include “high severity or high quantity of allegations,” a state licensing action such as suspension, political implications, potential media attention and “chronic non-compliance or ‘YoYo’ compliance,” according to information DHS provided to the Legislature last month.
The Nov. 25 review of children’s service providers on the “radar list” included several other programs that will not receive letters of intent to revoke: Chehalem Youth and Family Services in Newberg; Eastern Oregon Academy in Hines; The Inn Home for Boys in the Portland metropolitan area; Kairos in Grants Pass; and Youth Progress in Portland.
Evans, the DHS spokesman, wrote that agency director Saiki “established an ongoing review process to ensure that any issues with licensed child-caring facilities are identified and vetted with a cross-agency management team. This will ensure that actions are taken before a situation becomes a risk to the safety of children and youth in state care.”
The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.