Gov. Tina Kotek calls for more therapeutic foster homes, an end to housing kids in hotels

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
July 31, 2023 1 p.m.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek said she’s committed to creating more therapeutic foster care placements in the state and tamping down the practice of housing kids in hotels after it was revealed that the state has broken its 2018 promise to end the practice.

“In a hotel is not the option,” Kotek said.


The state has spent about $25 million housing 462 kids in foster care in hotels since 2018. State of Oregon officials regularly spend more than $2,560 per kid, per night (which includes lodging, staffing and food) to house a child in temporary lodging.

In 2018, the state promised to stop the practice as part of a legal settlement. Since then, the number of children placed in hotels has only grown. In the first six months of this year, 75 kids were placed in hotels; ranging in age from 6 to 19 years old. Twenty of those kids have lived in a hotel for more than 60 days.

The Oregon Department of Human Services building is pictured in Salem, Ore., on Sept. 26, 2019. Beleaguered and increasingly desperate child welfare workers trusted the private, for-profit Sequel Youth and Family Services with the state's most vulnerable children, despite allegations of abuse.

The Oregon Department of Human Services building is pictured in Salem, Ore.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Kotek’s comments came as she signed a handful of bills to address the deepening housing crisis in the state. Many researchers believe one of the most common pathways into adult homelessness is experiencing homelessness and periods of housing turmoil as a child.

The National Foster Youth Institute, an organization working to make changes in the child welfare system, noted the “child welfare system is sometimes described as a highway to homelessness.” Across the country, about 50% of the homeless population spent time in foster care, according to the organization.

“It is also important to talk about the investments we’re making to help young people who are coming out of foster care, either aging out or leaving early, to make sure they are not homeless,” Kotek said.

The governor said the state also has too many unhoused families currently.

“That is a priority for me to make sure we are getting those folks into housing.”

The state Legislature passed a housing bill earlier this year that included $25 million to address homeless youth, nearly the same amount the state has spent placing foster youth in hotels.