PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Department of Human Services is clarifying a proposed rule change around child abuse investigations after the agency received blowback.
Despite prior statements to the contrary, state agency officials said they are not trying to narrow the type of abuse records that can be accessed by the public, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
“Unfortunately, our previous statements and communication about this proposed rule change were inaccurate,” ODHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht said. “We apologize for the confusion.”
The agency said instead of trying to narrow the type of abuse records for children who are harmed outside the home, they are merely codifying current practice, which is to not release child abuse investigations while they are in progress. Its intent is to clarify the rule to ensure there is no loss of federal funding since officials feel the current rule lacks clarity, the agency said.
State Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, who has become a DHS watchdog and helped reveal systemic child abuse, said she appreciates the clarification.
“I look forward to seeing a corrected version of the rule that affirms that once completed, appropriately redacted … abuse investigation reports related to children in care are public records that will be released upon request,” Gelser Blouin said.
The initial understanding was the rule change would allow agency leaders to largely deny most public records requests even if an investigation was completed.
In 2018, public records helped uncover widespread abuse in facilities where Oregon was sending foster youth to live.