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Oregon not removing children from parents with COVID-19

May 1, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: In Oregon, if you test positive for coronavirus, they can take your kids.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Oregon Department of Human Services says the posts being shared online are inaccurate.

THE FACTS: Social media users are circulating an Oregon Department of Human Services advisory to staff that outlines ways to find placement for children if their parents become sickened by the coronavirus and are unable to care for them.

“Another excuse to steal our children,” says one Facebook post circulating the advisory.

Jake Sunderland, press secretary for the department of services, told The Associated Press in an email that the claims being shared online are untrue. He said that a child would only enter foster care if a caregiver was unable to care for the child due to severe illness from the virus and if no one else was able to do so.

“This would only be done on a voluntary basis and if the caregiver needed and requested it,” he said. “We would also work with the caregiver to first identify any potential friends or family that can provide a safe and caring environment for the child before making the decision that entering foster care was necessary.”

The document from the department, which is available online, says, “Again, this value is to be used only when the determination has been made that the child will be entering or has entered substitute care because their caregiver is infected with COVID-19 and is unable to support them.”

Posts online suggested that even if a parent just tested positive for coronavirus their child could be taken from their family.

“I can’t even,” said another Facebook post circulating the document. “This is Oregon. If you test positive for Covid, they can take your kids. Wonder how many other states will do this.”

The posts with the document from the department were shared widely across Facebook and Twitter.

The posts follow similar confusion following remarks made by Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director for the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, who suggested isolating family members during a WHO virtual press conference on March 30.

“And at the moment, in most parts of the world, due to lockdown, most of the transmission that’s actually happening in many countries now is happening in the household at family level,” he said. “In some senses, transmission has been taken off the streets and pushed back into family units. Now, we need to go and look in families to find those people who may be sick and remove them and isolate them in a safe and dignified manner.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536