On average, child neglect has contributed to just under 75 percent of abuse-related fatalities in Oregon and nationwide over the last five years. In many cases the family had several child welfare contacts over the years and patterns of neglect could be identified through critical incident reviews. Engaging child welfare professionals and partner organizations to better understand and respond to neglect is critical work toward prevention of child fatalities.
Enhanced training about child neglect occurs at two levels in Child Welfare. The first level provides a 90-minute overview of chronic neglect, the impacts to children and intervention strategies with families. This training is offered on-demand in local offices and hundreds of caseworkers have already been trained.
The second level of training is a two-day advanced training. This training was developed in partnership with the Butler Institute for Families, out of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. The course uses problem-based learning to offer a deeper understanding of the circumstances that give rise to neglect. This course compels learners to explore how their own life experiences influence perceptions of neglect and decision-making. Participants are introduced to the decision-making ecology and the socio-ecological framework, both of which help identify how bias and systemic oppression, including racism, play a role in the ways systems respond to families and how families access support and resources in their communities. More than 30 Child Welfare consultants were trained as trainers in this advanced curriculum and more than 200 Child Welfare professionals have completed the course.
The Children's Trust Fund Alliance offers a toolkit to enhance conversations about neglect prevention in local communities. This toolkit is intended to enhance understanding within communities about neglect - the indicators and impacts - as well as the role protective factors play in long-term safety, well-being and abuse prevention. Child Welfare's Child Fatality Prevention and Review Program is exploring a virtual cohort model to engage communities using the toolkit.
In addition, the Child Fatality Prevention and Review Program recognizes the importance of bolstering protective factors for all of Oregon's families. Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that reduce risk and promote healthy development and well-being of children and families. The Children's Bureau uses a protective factors framework adapted from the Strengthening Families framework developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, with the addition of a sixty factor, nurturing and attachment.
In the fall of 2020, the Child Fatality Prevention and Review Program began reaching out to community organizations to gather information about how they may be embedding the protective factors framework into their approaches with families. Understanding how the protective factors are cultivated across communities in Oregon can help Child Welfare form more meaningful and successful partnerships on behalf of children and families, perhaps even before families come to the attention of Child Welfare.