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Safe Children – Strong, Supported Families: Differential Response

Safe Children – Strong, Supported Families: Differential Response12/8/2014

From: DHS Child Welfare Director Lois Ann Day

To: All DHS Child Welfare Staff and Oregon Stakeholders
Governor Kitzhaber released his 2015-17 balanced budget last week. This budget includes additional Child Welfare staff to support investments aimed at safely and equitably reducing the number of children in foster care. There are several strategies that are supported in this budget, including additional resources to continue our implementation of Differential Response (DR). Based on these additional resources, we predict we will complete our statewide roll-out of DR in 2017.
Today, Districts 5 and 11 are practicing DR and Districts 4 and 16 are in the readiness phase, working toward a start in the spring of 2015. We have developed a draft schedule for statewide implementation which gives staff and communities an idea of when DR will be coming to their area. This is a draft schedule and we may need to make adjustments over time but below is our best thinking.
County/District                                Start DR
D11-Klamath, Lake                                     5/14
D4-Linn, Benton, Lincoln
D16-Washington                                         4/15
D7-Coos, Curry
D8-Josephine, Jackson
D15-Clackamas                                           12/15
D1-Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook
D2-Multnomah                                             8/16
D9-Hood River, Wasco, Gilliam, Sherman, Wheeler
D12-Umatilla, Morrow
D13-Union, Wallowa, Baker
D14-Grant, Harney, Malheur                     4/17
D3-Marion, Polk, Yamhill
D10-Jefferson, Crook, Deschutes            10/17
We gave thought to a number of factors in creating this schedule. When we developed the Oregon design for DR, we wanted to be sure our implementation was adequately supported and we felt comfortable that we would have consistency across the state and fidelity to the Oregon Safety Model (OSM) and our model of DR. The factors considered in creating this plan include the ability to provide sufficient support and coaching during the 6 month readiness period as well as post implementation: time to learn from the previous districts and make adjustments as needed; geography and travel schedules for coaching staff, and time for the districts to have peer to peer learning opportunities. As we move forward and learn from the counties that have implemented, we believe less preparation time may be needed as more districts are practicing DR and supporting each other. This could result in some acceleration in the schedule. If we encounter barriers we didn’t anticipate, it may result in statewide implementation taking longer. We will look for indicators of success and fidelity as we move through the districts to guide our schedule.
We remain committed to providing staff the resources needed to implement DR so that they can practice with fidelity after consultants move to the next counties. One of the important lessons learned from other states is that a staged implementation is critical because it allows for the accumulation of knowledge through trial and error. Often, the early counties encounter barriers, sometimes significant ones, which require problem solving and creative thinking. From their process of successfully working through practice changes and the removal of obstacles, they generate important knowledge that can then be shared with the next round of counties/regions. This process of internal, county-county TA has been described by many jurisdictions as critical to the success of their larger implementation process. Without such opportunities to develop and share knowledge, each wave must essentially reinvent the wheel all over again, and make themselves vulnerable to similar and new barriers the emerge. Our coaching model is one we adapted from other states and it has been essential in building the expertise of our staff so they can become DR experts in their own offices, guiding others in using the model and ultimately changing the front door to Oregon’s Child Welfare.
A change this big will not happen overnight. We have put a lot of thought into our state-wide roll out plan. Using implementation science principals we are working to give staff the resources and time they need to make this shift. Please contact me with any questions.
Take care,

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  ​​

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