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Hoteling Children in Foster Care

One hears occasional anecdotal reports. There was a sentence in the Report of Governor Edwards’ 2016 Transition Committee on Children and Family Services, which states, “In fact, our committee heard reported instances of children being forced to sleep in local offices due to a lack of placement resources.” (See A.5 on page 13)

Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services does hotel children in emergencies when proper emergency options are unavailable, and the problem may grow worse in Louisiana. But we should not be surprised by this because Louisiana is usually, and especially now, on the edge. See “Storm Warning: Louisiana Needs More Foster Homes for Children“.

We know Louisiana has too few foster homes for the number of children in custody. So at the end of the day, if DCFS is without a foster bed, sleeping in a hotel or on an office floor becomes the only option for a child in a system with too many needs and too few resources. Child welfare uses the phrase “alternative placement” for the practice of hoteling.

Why Louisiana Must Recruit More than Enough Foster Families

“Hoteling” (also called “Temporary Lodging” or “alternative placement” and sometimes spelled “Hotelling”) is a child welfare practice in which children in custody spend nights in hotels, cars, or state office buildings (aka “Officing”) due to a shortage of foster homes, group homes, or treatment facilities. Unfortunately, the hoteling of children is increasing in many states that grapple with too few placement options for children in foster care.

A state can prevent hoteling children or requiring kids to sleep in offices if it has sufficient kinship and foster homes for the number of children in custody. The solution to hoteling is effective foster home recruiting to ensure a surplus of homes. Otherwise, a state has too many children without placement (the child welfare acronym is “CWOP”).

States are losing in the courts, legislatures are passing bills, and advocacy groups are drawing attention to a growing practice.

On Being a Child Without a Place

To understand hoteling from a child’s point of view, imagine this: you have been “taken” by strangers. Even though your removal was for your safety, what happened to you was horrific.

Your parents may have yelled at the strangers in your home. You cried. Your mom screamed. Law enforcement officials may have stepped between you and your parents and participated physically in your removal.

You were taken to a state office building where you learn that no one prepared a place for you to stay.  And, “No.  You cannot go home.”

So without a foster home, shelter care, or group home bed available, you are checked into a hotel for the evening or spend the night in a state office building, sleeping on a couch or a blow-up mattress, watched through the night by a stranger.

The Unconscionable Irony

About half of the states in the U.S. include a parent’s inability to provide shelter as part of their definition of abuse and neglect. So, the sad irony of hoteling children in foster care is this: if parents cannot provide housing for their children and the family sleeps in a car, a state’s child welfare agency may take custody of the children for reasons of neglect, and ironically, immediately place the children in a hotel or keep them in an office because the state’s child welfare agency “cannot provide housing.”

Worse, hotels are also used for trafficking children.

News Reports about Hoteling and “Officing” Children in Foster Care

The news articles below provide examples of hoteling as it is practiced by public Child welfare agencies across the country.


AK: Alaska sees drop in foster care homes for children as demand persists – Alaska’s New Source – Georgina Fernandez – March 7, 2022


FL: Foster children still sleep in offices, but Eckerd Connects says foster-care fix is working – Tampa Bay Times – August 22, 2018

FL: Nonprofit admits more children in state care were forced to sleep in offices than previously acknowledged – Tampa Bay Times – Christopher O’Donnell – July 20, 2016


GA: Record-low number of Georgia foster children being housed in hotels after DFCS push, state – Akilah Winters – August 10, 2023

GA: Housing foster kids in county offices, hotels may soon end: A state Senate committee approved a bill regulating the practice after a series of Atlanta News First investigations. – Atlanta News First – Ciara Cummings – February 23, 2023

GA: Lawmakers push to stop housing foster kids in hotels | Solutions from – Liza Lucas – February 16, 2023

GA: Georgia paid $28 million to keep foster kids in hotels last year – WSB-TV Channel 2 – Atlanta – February 2, 2023

GA: Georgia faces hurdles to get foster children out of hotels – AP News – Jeff Amy – January 30, 2023

GA: Foster Care Crisis: Hundreds of foster kids in South Georgia placed in hotels – – Heidi Paxson – June 8, 2022

GA: ‘Desperate Situation’: States Are Housing High-Needs Foster Kids in Offices and Hotels – Cobb County Courier – Sam Whitehead – June 1, 2022

GA: Lack of foster families leads to temporary hotel housing for few children – The Times – Nick Watson – April 23, 2015


IL: DCFS must end practice of housing wards of the state in juvenile jail: A WBEZ report found that the practice, once on the decline, is now ticking up again. – Chicago Sun-Times – CST Editorial Board – June 11, 2022

IL: When Illinois DCFS can’t find housing for incarcerated teens, they stay in jail: The average wait time is more than 53 days. – – Char Daston – June 8, 2022

IL: DCFS releases information about children forced to sleep in offices overnight – WGN-TV Lourdes Duarte – August 1, 2019

IL: Amidst shelter bed shortage, pics show kids sleeping on DCFS office floor – WGN-TV – Ben Bradley – July 15, 2019


KS: Lawmaker: Kansas should cut ties with foster care contractor – – Heather Hollingsworth – November 16, 2022

KS: Kansas foster children are still sleeping in offices years after promises that would end | KCUR 89.3 – NPR in Kansas City – June 2, 2022


KY: Panel wants more information on report of foster care children sleeping in state offices – Kentucky Today – July 26, 2023

KY: Kentucky foster children sleeping on cots in state buildings is a ‘tragedy,’ cabinet secretary tells lawmakers Monica Karkins – – July 26, 2023

KY: Report: Kentucky Department of Children and Family Services housing children in their offices – Kentucky News Network – West Kentucky Star, July 8, 2023


LA: Former foster kids tell La. lawmakers to keep eye out for vulnerable services – The Advocate – Elizabeth Crisp – May 26, 2017


ME: “Hoteling” the New Term in the Crisis in Foster Care – Thrive Penobscot

North Carolina

NC: Foster care crisis | NC foster children sleeping in county offices and their numbers are increasing – ABC11 Raleigh-Durham – Samantha Kummerer – August 18, 2023

NC: NC Foster family shortage means kids sleep in jails, hospitals – March 2, 2023

North Dakota

ND: Lack of emergency foster care means some North Dakota kids must stay in hotels, offices – The Dickinson Press, by April Baumgarten – June 4, 2022


OR: Gov. Brown Ignored Problems with Foster Children Housing – Oregon Accountability Project – June, 2018

OR: Update: DHS Makes Progress on Ending Placement of Foster Youth in Hotels – Youth, Rights & Justice – February 25, 2021

OR: Foster Care in Oregon: Chronic management failures and high caseloads jeopardize the safety of some of the state’s most vulnerable children – Oregon Secretary of State, Audits Division – May 2018

South Carolina

SC: Inspection reports show children sleeping in Sumter DSS offices | wltx.comNews19 – Sam Perez – February 23, 2024

SC: SC’s mental health care crisis lands foster kids on air mattresses in officesThe Post and Courier – Alexander Thompson – August 13, 2023

SC: Federal Court Approves Plan to Immediately Address Crisis of Children Sleeping in South Carolina DSS Offices | Children’s Rights


TN: Here are five ways you can help foster kids sleeping at DCS offices – Mainstreet-Nashville – Vivian Jones – December 28, 2022

TN: DCS: Kids sent to hospitals for up to 100 days because there is no place to put them: DCS Commissioner Margie Quin outlined a cascade of crises in seeking a funding boost from Gov. Lee – Tennessee Lookout – Anita Wadhwani – November 18, 2022

TN: Foster children in Knoxville outnumber available foster families – – Kristin Gallant – Oct 7, 2022

TN: Lawmakers say DCS staffing shortages force children to sleep in offices – Mainstreet-Nashville – Vivian Jones – October 26, 2022


TX: 100s of Texas Foster Kids Slept in Unlicensed Housing Last Month – The Imprint – Annie Sciacca – June 12, 2023

TX: Report: Texas foster children spend average of 18 nights sleeping in CPS offices, hotels – – Avery Travis – November 19, 2021

TX: Why Kids in Foster Care End up Sleeping in Offices – Dallas Morning News – Naomi Schaefer Riley – October 5, 2021

TX: Judge sanctions Texas agency over children sleeping in CPS offices – – Avery Travis – September 10, 2021

TX: ‘A catastrophe’: More than 200 kids sleeping in CPS offices as need for foster care intensifies – – Avery Travis – May 4, 2021

TX: For troubled foster kids in Houston, sleeping in offices is “rock bottom” – The Texas Tribune and Reveal – Neena Satija – April 20, 2017


VA: Warren struggles with dire shortage of foster homes – North Virginia Daily – Laura Ruby – June 26, 2023

VA: Finding foster children homes instead of sleeping on office couches, hotels – – Jenna Zibton, Anchor – September 13, 2022

VA: Foster kids sleeping in offices, hotel rooms because there’s no other option | Why, and what can be done? – – Jenna Zibton, Anchor – May 12, 2022

VA: With nowhere else to go, some Virginia foster children have been sleeping in government offices – by Kate Masters – Virginia Mercury – April 1, 2022


WA: This attack took place in a hotel room: Foster teen’s violent attack of Washington social worker highlights lack of safety solutions – – Taylor Mirfendereski and Chris Ingalls – March 1, 2023

WA: DCYF settles class action lawsuit from foster youth in hotel stays – Foster Parent Alliance of Washington State – Jac Fitgerald – June 7, 2022

WA: Why Washington is struggling to stop housing foster kids in hotels – – Taylor Mirfendereski – October 17, 2021

WA: WA foster system to stop housing kids in hotels, offices. But then what? – Crosscut – Elizabeth Amon – July 9, 2021

WA: Judge Orders Washington State to End Car and Hotel Stays for Foster Youth – Disability Rights Washington – Patty Guinto – June 29, 2021

WA: Washington agrees to end foster youth placements in hotels, offices and cars – InvestigateWest – Elizabeth Amon – June 28, 2021

WA: No bed, no blanket: Social workers blow whistle on Washington forcing foster youth to sleep in cars, offices as punishment – – Taylor Mirfendereski, Chris Ingalls – May 20, 2021

WA: The $600-a-night foster care bed – Investigate West – Allegra Abramo – October 11, 2017

United States/National

United States: Foster Youth Are Sleeping in Jails, Offices, and Hotels Thanks to Flawed Federal Reforms | Opinion – Rick Jackson, Businessman and Philanthropist – July 14, 2023

United States: ‘Desperate Situation’: States Are Housing High-Needs Foster Kids in Offices and Hotels – KFF Health News – June 1, 2022

United States: High-needs foster kids sometimes have to sleep in hotels or offices. The pandemic made the problem worse – PBS News Hour – May 31, 2022

United States: Foster kids kept by state in hotels at record rate – InvestigateWest – Allegra Abramo – September 21, 2018

United States: Nowhere Else to Go: Why Kids Are Sleeping in Child Welfare Offices – – J.B. Wogan – October 09, 2017

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