Representative Ron Maurer and Linda Flores call for welfare investigation

Press release from State Representative Ron Mauer and State Representative Linda Flores 12-18-2007:

Reps Maurer & Flores Call for Child Welfare Investigation

(Salem) “Oregonians deserve to know what’s really happening to these children we send out of the country,” said State Representative Ron Maurer (R-Grants Pass) after learning one of the eleven children who have been sent to Mexico to live with relatives has been murdered. This disturbing news was disclosed by Bryan Johnston, the Interim Director for the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division for Children, Adults and Families, on the Lars Larson Radio program earlier today. State Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) was equally outraged explaining, “this development raises even more questions about the lack of accountability inside this agency. Clearly we need more oversight and a top-to-bottom review of how these cases are handled.”

Maurer and Flores have both been named to serve on a special Sensitive Review Committee which has been charged with examining the case involving Gabriel Allred, the young boy who was almost sent to Mexico to live with a relative he had never met. Last week DHS agreed to allow Gabriel to be adopted by his foster parents in Oregon. The Review Committee meets for the first time this Wednesday. 19 children under state custody have been sent to other countries for adoption in recent years.

Maurer, an Assistant Whip for the House Republican Caucus intends to contact Dr. Goldberg, DHS Director, to personally express his concerns about how these decisions are made. Flores, the Deputy Whip for House Republicans started looking into a number of related issues when she chaired the House DHS Taskforce Subcommittee on Child Welfare in 2006. Maurer and Flores sponsored legislation this year to create a special Inspector General’s office to provide outside, independent review of actions taken by DHS in cases such as baby Gabriel.

“What is disturbing to me is this department is perceived to be run by investigative journalism,” noted Maurer. In yet another alarming disclosure Johnson stated that DHS relies on their counterparts abroad to assess the living situation of the adoptive family in their country. Those foreign agencies then certify that family meets their own standards not the ones we use in Oregon. “Clearly a second or third world country will have a different standard of what is acceptable,” said Flores.

Both Maurer and Flores serve on the House Committee on Health Care. Maurer also serves on the Committee for Human Services and Women’s Wellness. He is Co-Chair of the Legislature’s Mental Health caucus and is a founding member of the Senior and Disability caucus. Flores is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Oregon Commission for Child Care. “Clearly our state’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens have been unnecessarily been put in harms way. This is unacceptable and DHS must be held accountable,” pointed out Maurer.