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Four facts about Child Welfare during the COVID-19 pandemic - 05/22/20

(Salem, Ore.) – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact daily life in Oregon, yet there are stable foundations and values which guide the work to support children and families during these difficult times.

Much of the way the Oregon Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Program works has changed to keep people safe and well. The pace of information and change is rapid and there have been rumors and misinformation causing confusion in the community about the actions of the Child Welfare Program.

Four facts about the work of the Child Welfare Program during the COVID-19 pandemic follow:

Fact #1: The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline is open and child abuse and neglect assessments are still being done in person.

The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline is still answering calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and Child Welfare staff will continue to respond to reports of abuse and neglect, and work with community partners to maintain support to families.

The COVID-19 pandemic creates many challenges for families, which could impact child safety, including:

  • Economic instability
  • Lack of access to medical care
  • Limited access to regular meals due to school closures
  • Increased mental health issues  

The Child Welfare Program encourages Oregonians to check in with families in their community-- including young children, children and adults with developmental delays or other medical vulnerabilities, isolated children and families, and youth and families with severe emotional/mental health needs – through phone, email, or by safe distance, and provide support and resources when this can safely be done. Dropping off groceries, diapers, or sharing information about 211 can make a big difference in a family's wellbeing. 

 Anyone with concerns about potential neglect or abuse should report it to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline at 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).

Fact #2: In-person visits between children in foster care and their biological parents are still happening, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon Child Welfare Program is allowing in-person visits to happen in the community with special considerations. These considerations include the health of children, foster parents, parents, and if caseworkers agree there are no health-related concerns around visits and enough room to practice physical distancing.

Sometimes, in-person visits are not able to occur. In these situations, Child Welfare is modifying plans to allow frequent and meaningful phone and virtual contact between families of origin and children; as well as siblings that are not together.

Children of all ages, even babies, benefit from seeing their parents via videoconferencing hearing their voices by phone. Parents also greatly benefit from this contact. When frequent and meaningful contact is maintained, even virtually, parents are more motivated to stay engaged in their case plan and children do better. 

On March 24, 2020 in-person visits at DHS offices were suspended. Since then they have been allowed in the community when possible. The decision regarding in-person visits at DHS offices will be reconsidered in June.

Fact #3: Oregon Child Welfare will not place children in foster care because their parents or caregivers are diagnosed with COVID-19.

There are times when a caregiver is unable to care for their child due to severe illness. In these cases, if the caregiver requests it and when there is no one else who is able to provide a safe environment for the child, it might be necessary for the child to enter foster care until the caregiver's health allows them to care for the child again.

This would only be done on a voluntary basis and if the caregiver needed and requested it. The Oregon Child Welfare Program would first work with the caregiver to identify any potential friends or family that can provide a safe and caring environment for the child before making the decision that entering foster care was necessary. This type of voluntary placement does not affect a caregiver's custodial rights and does not involve the child dependency legal system.

A parent or other primary caregiver having a severe illness, including COVID-19, would never be the sole reason for removing a child in Oregon.

Parents or other primary caregivers are encouraged to plan ahead and identify a circle of support made up of friends, family, and their community who can provide assistance in case of emergency.

Fact #4: Not following Governor Brown’s Stay Home, Save Lives executive order or not following physical distancing guidelines would never be a reason for a Child Protective Services (CPS) assessment.

When the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline receives a report of suspected abuse or neglect, that report is screened, and then if assigned for a CPS safety assessment, case workers will visit the family and do a safety assessment.

This assessment is very thorough and involves assessing all the factors within the family that can impact the safety of the child. Our caseworkers do a thorough assessment of who is in the home, parenting practices, vulnerability of the child, and much more.

Political activity, protests or beliefs are never a reason to assign a CPS assessment. Additionally, refusing to follow physical distancing guidelines or the Stay Home, Save Lives executive order are never reasons to assign a CPS assessment.

For additional resources and information:

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Parent Advisory Council Provides Mentorship, Support and Insight - 05/21/20

May is National Foster Care Awareness month, and this year’s theme is “Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents.”

When biological and foster families work together for successful reunification of children in care, everyone involved experiences long-term benefits. Communication between these families plays a crucial role in creating the support, resilience, and connection that children in care need and deserve.

In Oregon, the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) models this by mentoring parents with children in care and changing the stigma around family communication.

The PAC, facilitated by Morrison Child & Family Services, is composed of seven parents who have successfully navigated their own Oregon Child Welfare cases. The Oregon Foster Parent Association is also a member, working to increase positive relationships between foster families and parents in Oregon.

Says Rebecca Jones Gaston, Oregon Child Welfare Program Director, “All children deserve love and support. The Parent Advisory Council and Oregon Foster Parent Association reflect what we know works for children and society’s long-term success. By supporting families working together and building a strong child safety network, we can strengthen communities.”

The PAC believes that foster families play a vital role in healing families and successful reunification and recently developed a training to teach foster families best practices for collaboration from the parent perspective.

When the PAC was unable to provide in-person training due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PAC parents stepped up to deliver it virtually to foster families across Oregon.

"The humility, support and ongoing mentoring that my resource (foster) family provided me was imperative to my success as a parent and the reunification of my family", says Daniel Pallas, PAC member since 2016.

Here are five proven suggestions for foster families from parents who have successfully worked through child welfare cases:

1) Communication is key: Children pick up on the way foster families communicate with their parents. Encourage a healthy parent-child relationship by modeling a healthy co-parenting relationship and use creative communication tools such as journals or photos.

2) Transitions matter: Ease the pain and trauma for the child and parent when they are separated by allowing them a phone call on the first night and advocating for an early "icebreaker" meeting to make a co-parenting plan.

3) Small acts have big impacts: Some ideas include: asking for the child's special belongings and cultural practices, putting up pictures of the parents in the child's room even if they are an infant, and referring to the child's parents as "mom" and "dad."

4) Work as a team: Unity and consistency in co-parenting supports the immediate and long-term wellbeing of children. When parents and foster families work together, children experience less detachment, increased attachment resilience, and supportive transitions home.

5) Have hope: Parents can and do change. No matter how challenging things seem right now, every parent loves their child. Convey your hope to the parent! Tell them YOU believe they can change, too.

For more information about the Parent Advisory Council, please contact the Council Facilitators: Brittany Kintigh (971) 803-1804 or Leah Hall (503) 313-8959.


 

 

Oregon families will start receiving $134 million in additional food benefits in June - 05/20/20

(Salem, Ore.) – On May 5, 2020, the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced that more than 351,000 students receiving free meals from Oregon schools will get additional food benefits for groceries during the school closure.

Households will receive food benefits equivalent to the cost of one lunch and one breakfast for each eligible student – $5.70 per normal school day for the months of March, April, May and June.

Beginning in June, these additional benefits will be automatically deposited for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households to their existing Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) accounts on their regular issuance date. Benefits are sent out from the 1st to the 9th of the month, based on the last digit of your SSN.

Students who get free school meals but do not receive SNAP benefits will automatically receive an Oregon Trail Card in the mail in the months of June and July. Parents do not need to apply if their children are part of a school where all students receive free meals.

Families whose children attend participating schools and have experienced significant income loss may have become eligible for free school meals, and there is still time to apply. Apply online at https://www.ode.state.or.us/apps/FRLApp/Default or contact your local school. To find out if your school participates in this program, visit https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/childnutrition/Pages/COVID-19.aspx.

Benefits will be retroactive to March 16, 2020 for students who received free and reduced-price meals when schools closed. For newly eligible free or reduced-price students or SNAP households, benefits will start at the beginning of the month they become eligible. Eligible students will receive the following:

  • $69 for March
  • $126 in April
  • $120 in May
  • $69 in June

More information about the program is available at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits or https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/childnutrition/Documents/FAQ - Parent - Website.pdf.

DHS will continue to work with federal partners to provide greater assistance to Oregonians in need. For more information about food assistance, visit needfood.oregon.gov or call 2-1-1.

An additional $30 million for food assistance in June - 05/15/20

SALEM, OR – Oregonians receiving food benefits will get additional assistance in June, to help with continued impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon Department of Human Services began issuing additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in April and May 2020. Individuals and families have received the maximum allotment based on the number of eligible members in the household during this time. Due to the continued state of emergency, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Services has provided an additional $30 million to help children and adults in Oregon buy food.

“There are many Oregon families who continue to be caught between reduced hours or unemployment and waiting for other temporary assistance to help them make ends meet until it is safe to return to or find new work,” said Dan Haun, director of Self-Sufficiency Programs. “Having an additional month of federal funds available for eligible recipients, we can help ensure people have access to the basic necessity of food during this ongoing crisis.”

The additional funding will allow Oregonians on SNAP to receive the maximum benefit amount for June. For example, a family of four who currently receives a $346 monthly allotment, would receive a supplement of $300. For reference, the maximum SNAP allotment chart is available online.

Supplemental payments for the month of June will be issued on June 11 for all current recipients and June 30 for new recipients between June 11 and June 30. Recipients who already receive the maximum allotment will not receive additional SNAP benefits.

The remaining May supplemental payment will be issued on May 29, 2020.

Learn more about the food assistance program at needfood.oregon.gov, and apply online at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits.

Stay Home, Save Lives -- How to apply for food, child care and cash assistance from home - 05/04/20

(Salem, Ore.) – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregonians are facing unprecedented economic instability and food insecurity. As Oregon continues to maintain physical distancing rules, the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) wants to remind you that you can apply for food, cash and childcare assistance from home.

While many DHS offices are still open to the public, members of the public are encouraged to apply online at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. The online application does experience heavy traffic from 11am – 3pm, which causes it to be unavailable intermittently. Please try use the online application in the early morning or late evening hours.

If you are not able to access the online application, please call your local office. We can email or mail you an application. You can also apply for benefits over the phone. Most assistance provided by DHS can completed without visiting an office in person.

If you need to visit an office in-person, it is important to call first. Offices have implemented physical distancing measures and may be able to help you by phone.    

To find your local office, child care providers or food pantries, contact 211info:

  • By calling 2-1-1 from any phone
  • Text your zip code to 898211
  • By email at help@211info.org
  • 211info.org

Find other food resources at https://oregonhunger.org/covid-19/.

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