Child abuse and neglect takes place at home and at the hands of someone the child knows well, usually a parent. As a result of abuse and neglect, children spend time in foster care because they could not remain safely at home. While foster care is essential to keep some kids safe, it is a temporary service. We know children need a more permanent place to grow up than foster care offers. We know we can do better at keeping children safely at home or with relatives.
With strong community involvement, we believe we can improve outcomes for our children and families. Here are five ways
we are working to prevent child abuse and keep children safe in their families:
- Implement Differential Response - The state is working to create a new, cross-systems and community-based "Differential Response" model for child welfare. This model focuses on safety and also allows child welfare the flexibility to respond to family issues without taking the child into foster care. Differential response would only occur in low- and moderate-risk families. The family's strengths and needs are assessed and services provided to support the parent continuing to safely parent the child and connect with community supports.
- Decrease Substance Abuse - Drug and alcohol issues are the largest single factor in 44% of cases of child abuse. If we can address substance abuse issues with parents, we can help children stay safe and at home.
- Strengthen Domestic Violence Program Relationships - Third, another big factor in cases of abuse is domestic violence. We have strong collaborative relationships between child welfare staff and local domestic violence programs and advocates. Strengthening those relationships will improve our ability to keep children safely at home.
- Increase Family Support and Parent Mentors - Fourth, family supports and parent mentors can provide many types of assistance to families facing challenges with parenting. Support programs can intervene, prevent, and correct the conditions threatening the in-home stability of children and the maintenance of the core family.
- Engage with Relative Caregivers - When a child cannot stay safely at home with parents, DHS and the courts -- more than ever before -- actively seek to locate relatives in order to find safe, positive and supportive families who can step in to care for the child for a short period of time, often while the parents deal with drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and anger issues, or get family support services. Relatives provide stability and connection during a traumatic time for a child.
These five new ways of working with families represent a significant change and continuing improvement for Oregon. The efforts are based on research that demonstrates that outcomes for children, families and communities are better when children are raised in their families and supported by their community.