Pilot Child Welfare System Redesign
Strategic Action Plan
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11.7. Stress Factors in Child Abuse
The following chart has been created from data in the annual Oregon Child Welfare Data Books for the years 2010 through 2019.
This chart compares the highest stress factors for parents that precipitated child abuse toward their child(ren). Each cluster of columns represents data from every year (2010 through 2019) for the stated stress factor provided along the right side of the chart. Much of the chart shows a randomness of stressors one would expect to encounter over a period of years. The three major stress factors are also easily identified in this chart.
Data-Driven Need for Programs and Services
One important use for this chart is to identify where programs and services can be introduced that will significantly reduce frequency and occurrence of that stress factor in subsequent years. For example, from 2010 until now, the obvious highest stress factor is “Parent/Caregiver Alcohol or Drug Use.” It is presumed that a variety of alcohol and drug abuse programs and services have been provided to the families, with no apparent effect on the outcome of child abuse.
The difficulty with analyzing so many variables is that a downward trend in one stress factor may be counteracted by an upward trend in another stress factor. For example, looking at the last four columns of the first cluster on the left, the decline in “Parent/Caregiver Alcohol or Drug Use” as a stress factor for the years 2016 through 2019 may appear encouraging; perhaps a program or service has succeeded in reducing the alcohol and drug use by the parents. However, comparing that with the last four columns of the second cluster from the left, “Domestic Violence,” for the years 2016 through 2019, indicates a significant increase in domestic violence in 2016, following by an even more significant decrease in 2017, which has been slowly increasing over the next two years.
Very recently, domestic violence has been identified as a form of child abuse, even if the child is not physically harmed. The placement of domestic violence in this chart as a stress factor for the parents does not consider the child abuse aspect domestic violence has on the child(ren) in the home.
Reducing Stress Factors
The trend in the last 3 years toward reduced stress from “Family Financial Distress,” “Inadequate Housing,” and “Head of Household Unemployed” is encouraging, as those three stress factors may be significantly reduced further with support, training, and education from other agencies such as financial management, low-income housing, and employment assistance agencies. If these three, and other, support systems are not being actively used to relieve these stress factors, then the inclusion of these services and others into the family care plan should be encouraged and increased.
Parent/Caregiver Mental Health Needs
Similarly, support and education from other agencies may be implemented in the family care plan to address “Parent/Caregiver Mental Illness” and “Parent/Caregiver History of Abuse as a Child” to provide parents and caregivers with options to their current behaviors and triggers.
Child Mental Health Needs
In addition to programs and services to help the parents and caregivers modify their own behaviors, programs and services directed toward the child and the parents could be applied to address the “Child Mental/Physical/Behavioral Disability” stress factor by providing alternatives to the parents for the treatment of the child, as well as the child’s education and treatment to reduce the stress on the parents.
Action Step 11.7.1: Find a support group for parents, similar to “Parents Anonymous” for parents who truly love their child and need help correcting their habits or behaviors to stop abusing their child and thus be able to retain their child safely at home. This would be for parents who want to change. One example may be (NOTE: not a recommendation but a suggestion to contact; they would need to be fully vetted to ensure the safety of the child): Parents Anonymous® of Oregon, Web Site – through the Morrison Center
Action Step 11.7.2: For parents who do not want to change their habits or behaviors, no amount of voluntary programs or services will have any effect. The next step would be mandatory programs and services with the stipulation that their successful completion of these programs and services are required to retain their child in their home. It may be necessary to temporarily remove the child to a Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Home, giving the child an opportunity to heal and learn in a functional home, while the parent(s) receive the training.
Action Step 11.7.3: Maintain strong connections among the various state, county, city, and local agencies to provide the parents with the programs and services they need to reduce the stress factors that have led to child abuse. Provide access to those programs and services at the first assessment visitation and maintain contact through the subsequent weekly home visitations, noting progress on the child’s record.
To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.