Protesters took to the streets after the Department of Human Services decided to transfer a three year old girl from her foster family to biological relatives on Sunday. The Burnsons have fostered the child for three years, almost the entirety of her life.
“The foster family that she’s currently placed with is the only family that she has ever known,” protester Kristina Biederman said.
Tige and Karen Nishimoto, biological uncle and aunt to the girl, say these claims are false.
“We’ve been involved in [her] life since she was an infant,” Tige said. “We’ve been fighting for her over three years to get her to come home to us. We’ve had over hundreds of contact hours with her.”
A video provided to Central Oregon Daily News shows the girl as an infant to a two year old, to a three year old, laughing and hugging the Nishimotos, and playing with their sons. The Nishimotos filed for adoption of the girl three years ago, and say they had close relationship with Burnsons, who they say filed for adoption much later.
“It’s heartbreaking because we were really close friends at one time, and we feel like that has been broken,” Tige said. “We are open to healing with them.”
We reached out to the Burnsons who initially agreed to an on-camera interview, but suddenly canceled, saying they fear threats from DHS. The Burnsons maintain that it’s best for the girl to stay with them. The foster family has since reached out, saying they would like to speak with us but cannot because their certification as foster parents is being directly threatened by ODHS.
“Our stance is not ‘blood vs foster,'” foster mother Briana Burnson said in a text. “Rather, ‘sworn testimony in court proves that ODHS is inflicting willful harm by moving this child.'”
The Nishimotos said they came to Bend from Virginia, expecting to take her home. That process has been delayed because at least one state legislator is now involved.