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DHS news release

May 10, 2004

Contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955

Oregon releases annual status of abused and neglected children report

Four key factors continue to contribute to the abuse and neglect of Oregon's children, according to the 2003 Status of Children in Oregon's Child Protective System released Monday by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). To access the report, you can visit the DHS Web site.

For families with founded abuse or neglect, the four major problems are: parental drug or alcohol abuse; parental involvement with law enforcement; head of household unemployed; and domestic violence. Parental drug and alcohol abuse was a stress indicator in 43 percent of confirmed reports in 2003.

"Families with founded abused and neglect represent a small, but extremely vulnerable, percentage of Oregon's population," said Ramona Foley, DHS assistant director for Children, Adults and Families. "We must continue to find ways for our various systems -- substance abuse treatment, employment, law enforcement, justice, housing and mental health -- to work together in the best interests of Oregon's children and their families."

To bring Oregon into alignment with how data are reported by most other states and the federal government, DHS is now reporting data captured within the federal fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2002 to Sept. 30, 2003, rather than the calendar year, as it had done in the past.

Of note in this year's report is the reversal of a three-year trend where more children entered foster care than exited foster care in FFY 2003. With the passage of the 1997 federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), Oregon's efforts to complete the adoptions of children in foster care whose parental rights had been terminated resulted in a high number of children exiting foster care to adoption.

Although there continues to be more foster children needing adoption than there were before 1997, policy and practice changes are preventing the types of backlogs that existed before ASFA.

Oregon received more than 40,000 reports of suspected abuse and neglect in FFY 2003. Of those, about 9,500 were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect, a 12 percent increase over calendar year 2002. Infants continue to make up the largest single age group of victims.

In FFY 2003, all types of abuse, except mental injury, increased. The sex abuse category had the most significant increase at 20 percent, with the majority of victims between the ages of 10 and 17.

Foley said some of the increase could be attributed to the public's growing awareness of child sex abuse and, therefore, the increasing obligation to report.

"These data speak to the fact that public awareness is on the rise; the awareness may be due in part to recent attention given to some high-profile sex abuse cases involving pre-teens and teens," said Foley.