The number of foster care children who are being sent to out-of-state private residential treatment facilities are disproportionately children of color.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who chairs the Senate Human Services Committee, shared some demographic information about the more than 80 foster children in the state’s care who have been sent to out-of-state facilities.

“I think it’s important we know who they are, that they know we’re thinking of them and that we’ve not forgotten them,” Gelser told her colleagues.

There are 13 African American children, Gelser said, or 15.7% of the 83 kids in out-of-state facilities. That compares to 6% of the general foster care population who are African American.

There are 12 American Indian children, Gelser said, or 14.5%, compared to 5.2% of the general foster care children population.

In addition, Gelser said, seven of the children have intellectual or developmental disabilities. They are in locked and segregated facilities. The state of Oregon does not institutionalize people with developmental disabilities.

Nine of the children who have been placed out of state have been in more than one facility. One child has been in an out-of-state facility for 33 months, the shortest stay has been five months. 

Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, said on the Senate floor she’s often noted, “Oregon is not absent from the institutionalism of racism.”

“We can do better than this,” Winters said. “We have done better than this and if I have to stand up every session and talk about this, I will … Let’s make Oregon once again the Oregon we can be proud of and take care of our children.”

There are approximately 7,500 foster care children under Oregon’s care.

The number of children being sent out of state to privately run psychiatric and residential treatment facilities has spiked in the last year. Oregon officials said they do not have appropriate treatment beds for the children in the state. They have, however, pledged recently to figure out a way to bring the children back home.

The facilities where the children are being sent have faced multiple accusations of neglect and abuse.

Earlier this week, a national advocacy group filed a class-action lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Human Services, alleging the agency revictimizes children in its foster care system.