Under pressure driven by reports of abuse and neglect, the state of Oregon has reduced the number of foster care children sent to out-of-state facilities from a peak of 88 kids, down to 32 this month.

But now the for-profit business that housed the majority of Oregon’s foster youth in other states is looking to open in Oregon.

Sequel Youth and Family Services owned or operated the bulk of facilities where Oregon sent foster youth.

“I remain incredibly concerned about this organization,” Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, said this week during a legislative hearing.

Representatives from Sequel have met with Oregon Health Authority and Department of Human Services staff to “discuss Sequel bringing services to Oregon,” according to a Nov. 12 email from a Sequel official named Jessica Meyer.

Gelser, who helped lead the charge to reduce the number of foster youth in other states, said she is concerned Sequel is making a lot of money off the state of Oregon and she continues to question whether children in Sequel facilities are safe. There have been reports of widespread use of restraints and abuse at Sequel campuses. The state of Washington is also moving to return all of their foster youth in out-of-state facilities back home.

Sequel officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Gelser said she’s concerned Sequel isn’t being forthright with Oregon officials. She raised concerns about a young child in Sequel’s Northern Illinois Academy who was reportedly hit in the face by an adult staff member.

“I hope we don’t send any more kids, and I hope we don’t look for this for-profit provider as a potential partner to open up in this state,” Gelser said. “I do not believe they should be welcome here.”

State leaders, lacking enough foster parents and residential treatment programs, have struggled to find enough appropriate places to put the most vulnerable children. In Oregon, the number of children being sent to out-of-state facilities spiked in 2018.

Several years ago, Oregon officials started placing foster youth in hotels. They were sued and tried to ramp down the process.

Shortly after, child welfare officials quietly began increasing the number of foster children sent to private, out-of-state facilities.