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Safe Children – Strong, Supported Families: Differential Response

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.


Milestone Report: Differential Response5/21/2014

From: DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day

To: All DHS Child Welfare Staff & Oregon Stakeholders

Hello everyone,

We just completed the training for child welfare and self-sufficiency staff as well as service providers in all the three implementation counties: Lake, Klamath and Lane. They will begin serving families with our Differential Response system in May. After diligent planning and preparation with staff, partners and stakeholders, Differential Response has reached this important milestone.

It’s a huge accomplishment, and there are many people who have been diligent and persistent in their efforts to get us to this milestone on schedule. And there is much more to do to stage implementation to the remaining counties and ensure this model takes hold and delivers what we hope it will deliver – safer children and stronger, supported families.  And we need to take a moment to acknowledge all the incredible work that has been done!

What are the main things we are looking for as we implement DR and begin serving families in a Differential Response system?

  1. Screening decisions are made with consistency using the new Track Assignment Tool;
  2. Comprehensive assessments are done with fidelity to the Oregon Safety Model;
  3. Families are connected to appropriate Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families (SPRF) services and/or other community services to meet their needs; and
  4. Fewer children will have a foster care experience because, with increasing frequency, parents are able to keep their children safely at home and are able to access needed services.

We have a lot to learn from Lane, Klamath and Lake Counties, and the purpose of staged implementation is to be sure those lessons inform our decisions as we move forward with statewide rollout. We will share lessons learned as we move ahead. It’s an exciting and critical time for Oregon Child Welfare, and we are in the early stages of evaluating district readiness for the next set of implementation counties.

I want to thank everyone for your attention to these messages and for your outstanding work and support that has helped us reach this milestone. It’s something to celebrate because it opens the door to better outcomes for children and families across the state. Thank you!

Finally, I wanted to share the Differential Response overview brochure​ we are printing (in English and Spanish) for use across the state. It answers some of the very basic questions about the Traditional Track and Alternative Track and why we are moving to a more family-centered approach for families struggling with issues of child abuse and neglect. Color copies will soon be available for your meetings with partners, stakeholders and community groups.

Thank you again for all your great work with families and children,


~ Lois

DHS Child Welfare: DR Bulletin5/14/2014

​From: DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day

To: All DHS Child Welfare Staff & Oregn Stakeholders

The Differential Response Bulletin provides the latest, up-to-date information on topics related to Oregon’s implementation of Differential Response.

Today, I want to dig into the new Oregon Family Strengths and Needs Assessment, which will be an important part of focusing services with families in DR implementation counties (Lane, Klamath and Lake).

The Family Needs and Strengths Assessment Tool is new to our work. Similar to the CANS tool we use with children, it is a multipurpose information tool that is designed to help families (identified as having safe children and moderate to high needs) focus on the services that can meet those needs. 

The flowchart demonstrates how this tool fits into our response. After the family has been through the comprehensive assessment and the child has been determined to be safe and the family has some moderate to high needs, the next step is to make a referral to a Family Strengths and Needs Assessment provider.

There are about 60 questions in the assessment, covering family status; family strengths and supports; family relationships; parenting commitment, skills, health and well-being; life and social relationships; child health and well-being; developmental needs; education; and high risk behaviors. While each of the items is rated on its own 4-point scale, the points are not “added up” to get an overall score rating. Rather the assessment gives the service provider, the family, and the CPS workers information to use in the development of a plan around service decisions.

The tool has been tested in several sites throughout the state, as well as tested in the implementation counties. Of course, as workers and providers begin using this tool, it can be adjusted based on feedback. 

I couldn’t be more pleased with the work that’s been done in developing the assessment, so join me in a big THANK YOU to the members of the Strengths and Needs Subcommittee for their work:

  • Deena Loughary – Chair
  • Ashley Woodcock – Co-chair
  • Nicole Parada
  • Tom Progin
  • Dawn Cottrell
  • Cathy Wamsley
  • Dana Ainam
  • Natasha Chapman

Take care,


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