National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

A.R. v. State of Oregon

Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenges the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS)’s practice of failing to find appropriate placements for the foster children in its custody. Despite recognizing the importance of placement stability, DHS regularly housed children in hotels and DHS offices, as well as in hospitals and juvenile justice facilities, even in the absence of medical issues requiring hospitalization or criminal charges requiring incarceration. “Hard to place” children with mental health needs, like plaintiffs A.R. and B.C., were disproportionately subject to these impermanent placements, and were further destabilized and traumatized by the lack of stability and continuity. Plaintiffs allege these impermanent placements violated the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and Oregon Civil Rights Statute 659A.142. The effect of these arrangements on co-plaintiff CASA for Children was the frustration of its mission; the organization’s resources were diverted from regular activities towards addressing new issues created by these housing arrangements.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED

3:16-cv-01895, District Court of Oregon, Portland Div., September 27, 2016

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Emily Teplin Fox
Ryan Newby
Ed Johnson
Oregon Law Center
522 SW 5th Ave, Suite 812
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 473-8310
efox@oregonlawcenter.org

Angela Sherbo, OSB No. 824472
Youth, Rights & Justice
1785 NE Sandy Blvd., Suite 300
Portland, OR 97232
(503) 232-2540
Angela.S@youthrightsjustice.org

HISTORY AND STATUS

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on September 27, 2016, in the U.S. District Court of Oregon. Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65, as well as a motion for expedited hearing on October 7, 2016.  Plaintiffs also filed a motion to certify the class on October 14, 2016.  On October 13, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs’ motion for expedited hearing.

On October 24, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and an opposition to plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. Defendants’ motion to dismiss alleged that plaintiffs A.R. and B.C. no longer had standing to seek relief, since both children were in stable placements and no longer at risk of returning to a temporary shelter.

Prior to ruling on plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction and class certification, and defendant’s motion to dismiss, the parties entered into interim settlement negotiations. The parties reached an interim settlement on November 17, 2016. Under the interim settlement, DHS agreed to immediately cease housing children in detention facilities in the absence of criminal charges, in hospitals in the absence of a safety risk or medial necessity, and in DHS offices, unless there was no safe hotel within 30 minutes/30 miles of the DHS office. DHS agreed to limit children’s stays at DHS offices to two nights. DHS also agreed that children would only be housed in hotels in the absence of safe residential placements and that any child housed in a hotel would be taken to school. DHS also agreed to provide plaintiff’s counsel with weekly reports on the children in temporary emergency placements.

The case has been stayed while the parties work to negotiate a comprehensive settlement agreement.

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