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Safe Children – Strong, Supported Families: Differential Response

Implementing Differential Response9/30/2014

From: DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day

To: All DHS Child Welfare Staff and Oregon Stakeholders

I am often asked how District 5 and District 11 are doing as they lead the way in implementing Differential Response (DR) in Oregon. Now that our first districts have passed the 90 day mark I thought the best way to answer this question is to ask those who are on the front lines. So we called Child Welfare Manager Charley Tracy in Lake County, District 11.


Charley, a 19-year veteran with Child Welfare was recently awarded the DHS Directors Excellence award for her work in creating a partnership with Lake Health District. The partnership helps make services available, using Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families funding, to families touched by Child Welfare. She recognized that Lake Health was already providing many of the services needed under DR, so she asked if they could join. With scarce resources in a county she calls more frontier than rural Charley’s innovative thinking connects families to knowledgeable navigators who can help them access the services they need to keep their kids safe and at home. For example the navigators can help them with TANF paperwork, arrange for transportation to appointments and schedule visits with Mental Health providers.

One of the challenges in implementing DR that Charley talks about is making appointments with families ahead of time. Working in a frontier county with some families living more than 100 miles away, the Alternative Response procedure of calling ahead can be tricky.
While there are daily challenges to learning and practicing DR, Charley says the DR consultants provided are wonderful. She admits they were hesitant at first about having new people come into their office. Then they started to do the work. She says it has been wonderful having the consultants walk them through cases, helping them understand DR, OSM and their decision making.
When asked about advice for the next DR districts, Charley says communication with providers and workers is crucial. She describes DR as a team effort. She also encourages workers at all levels to think outside the box. Just like Charley, when she recognized a need for services and reached out to Lake Health.
Thanks for sharing Charley and congratulations on your award. I look forward to sharing more of your stories as we continue to implement DR statewide.
Take care,
District 4 and 16 next Differential Response sites9/4/2014

From: DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day

To: All DHs Child Welfare Staff & Oregon Stakeholders

I am pleased to announce District 4 and 16 will be our next Differential Response sites.

District Managers, Marco Benavides (D4) and Rolanda Garcia (D16) both tell me they are excited and ready to begin preparation for the implementation of Differential Response (DR). The planning to prepare these districts that include Benton, Lincoln, and Linn and Washington counties for DR is just beginning. There is a lot of work to be done and we will continue to share updates on training, resources and timelines.

We have made a significant investment in our first DR counties, District 5 and 11 and in return they are learning a great deal. Since implementation began in May, these brave trailblazers continue to make excellent progress and share with us their challenges. Their work is making it possible for us to make small adjustments to the model that will improve implementation and practice in successive counties.

As we continue to work on the details, we are hearing some great stories from workers, who are experiencing success, by having better interactions with families and as a result better identifying child safety issues. I know DR demands a shift in our thinking and decision making at every level. That is why we are dedicated to providing you with the support and training you need as we move through implementation and toward maintenance of this practice change. 

While the implementation of DR can seem complicated and rigorous, our goal is simple; let’s give families the support they need in order to keep their kids safe at home whenever possible. We all know children who are raised safely at home have better outcomes than children who enter the foster care system. The DR model is designed to enhance the way we engage with families, empowering them to identify their needs and choose services and supports that will help them keep their children safe and with them at home.

The work we do is not easy. Learning to practice DR will take time. I assure you we are working to support all our workers taking on this new challenge. We are providing training, coaching and as much support as possible to facilitate this transition. Transforming the Child Welfare system is no small task but with your help we can implement DR statewide and experience the desired outcomes; fewer repeat cases of child abuse and neglect, lower foster care placement rates, reduced system costs over time and increased satisfaction by families and child welfare workers – Safe Equitable Foster Care Reduction. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. And kudos to Districts 4 and 16!

Take care,

Lois  ​​

Working Together to Keep Children Safe: Strong Partnerships and Community Collaboration7/10/2014
From: DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day

To: All DHS child Welfare Staff & Oregon Stakeholders

I have been asked what will happen if there is a bad outcome for a child whose family was served on the Alternative Track. Whenever we make changes in our practice model, this concern is raised and rightly so. We can't always control bad outcomes because we are dealing with the unpredictable nature of human behavior. As an intervention program, we rely on strong partnerships and collaborations with others in our communities to work together with us to keep our children safe.

From after school programs to Relief Nurseries to intensive treatment programs, the entire array of prevention and intervention services and supports work to help families be as healthy and children as safe as possible. One of the strengths of Differential Response is our relationship with service providers. This relationship allows for a good transition for families from our involvement to someone who will continue to help them access the services they need to continue to keep their children safe. 

My response to the question is that we will respond the same way we do today.  We have effective processes in place to review our practice with families where there is an injury or even a fatality subsequent to our involvement through either track. Local staffings, case reviews, MDT protocols, Sensitive Case Reviews, and Critical Incident Response Teams all offer us the opportunity to look at our practice and our engagement with families to see if there are improvements we can make to the system as a whole.

What we know is that other states that have implemented differential response have found that children are equally safe in the alternate track as they are in the traditional track. Differential Response offers us the opportunity to intervene with families earlier and to offer services that we hope will improve the situation of the family so the children remain safe.

By adopting this new practice, we hope to get help to families before their children are unsafe at home. The strength of our workforce and our collaborations with others in our communities increase the likelihood that a family can get the services they need that will reduce the risk that a child will be unsafe at home.

Thank you for your work every day to improve the lives of children in Oregon. 

Take care.


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