Strapped foster system grapples with epidemic of children at risk in Malheur County

Wendy Hill, district director in Ontario for the state Department of Human Services, has faced a growing number of foster children in state care but a shortage of caseworkers and foster parents. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz)

ONTARIO – The two sisters, so neglected that they had been removed from their home, spent days around Christmas in a motel room, tended to by state workers instead of parents.

There was no other choice for the girls, 13 and 8.

They couldn’t be left with parents who couldn’t or wouldn’t tend their needs.

They couldn’t go to a temporary home under the care of foster parents. None were available.

And they couldn’t sleep in the offices of the state Department of Human Services . . .