Oregon's State Office for Services to Children and Families (SCF), its child
welfare agency, lies within the Department of Human Resources (DHR). DHR
also administers the Aid to Families with Dependent Children, alcohol and
drug abuse, mental health, and vocational rehabilitation programs. Funding
from a surcharge on marriage licenses that is designated for domestic violence
shelters is distributed through SCF. Within the state office building, staff
sit by function (such as programming, budget, etc.) rather than by division
or office in order to encourage communication and collaboration within the
larger department. SCF serves families throughout Oregon, which encompasses
metropolitan areas such as Portland, Salem, and Eugene in the western portion
of the state and large rural counties in the southern and eastern parts.
This site report focuses primarily on efforts to integrate domestic violence
at the state level within SCF, and also looks at specific efforts in Marion,
Lane, Multnomah, and Benton Counties. These counties lie within the Willamette
River Valley on the western side of the state, home to the majority of the
state's population. Although we mention some efforts in other counties, this
report does not reflect all types of coordination occurring throughout Oregon.
It does not cover efforts in large, rural counties in the eastern half of
the state where there are unique service delivery challenges for both domestic
violence and other basic service providers.
Child welfare services are delivered through four geographical regions. Multnomah County coincides with the Metro Region and is served by four branches covering Portland and its outlying communities.(2)
Multnomah County is the largest metropolitan area in Oregon and has a population
of 583,887. Lane County lies in the Southern Region and includes Eugene which,
with a population of 112,669, is the second largest city in Oregon and home
of the University of Oregon. The Western Region includes both Marion and
Benton counties. Salem, the state capitol, is located in Marion County, which
has a population of 228,483. Many state institutions and prisons are located
in Salem, and the county has a disproportionate number of residents with
past criminal involvement. Benton County (population 70,811) is a relatively
small but rural county north of Eugene. It includes the town of Corvallis
and Oregon State University. Community response to domestic violence in Benton
County is somewhat more advanced than it is in the adjacent, and larger,
Linn County. The two counties share a branch manager and many services, including
the domestic violence shelter, but have different court systems and prosecuting
Brief Overview of Child Welfare Services
Oregon has a state-administered child welfare system, but there appears to
be substantial room for variation among
branches.(3) The size of county SCF staff
varies across the state; those covered in this study range from seven full-time
equivalent (FTE) staff in Benton County to nearly 200 FTEs in Multnomah County.
Staff positions include screeners, workers, and supervisors in the areas
of protective services, family foster care, other substitute care, in-home
services, and adoption.
Similar to the situation in many states, SCF faces rising caseloads and a
constrained budget. In order to ensure that Oregon's most needy families
are served, the state formalized a priority system with seven levels of
vulnerability. Over time, staff resources are being redistributed so that
branches across the state can more consistently serve the three highest levels
of need. Despite state efforts to achieve more uniformity across branches,
important differences persist--especially between urban and rural counties--in
the severity of maltreatment among cases served. Child abuse and neglect
referrals that meet the criteria for investigation are assigned to Protective
The state legislature meets biannually and in recent years has been leaning
on SCF to strengthen its family preservation interventions. SCF uses a variety
of intervention tools to preserve and reunite families including family unity
meetings or family group conferences, where members of a family and its support
system are convened to work together on shared goals.
Seven counties in the state have family support teams of service providers
(drug and alcohol and public health professionals) who work with families
involved in SCF to resolve various issues. An additional county has a "shelter
team," which is an expanded version of the family support team that also
includes housing, employment and training, parenting, and mental health
specialists. If the legislature authorizes the necessary funding in its next
session, SCF will transform all family support teams into shelter teams,
double the number of communities receiving this service, and add a domestic
violence specialist to the team.
Oregon requires SCF branches to contract a number of different services out
to private providers, services that at one time had been delivered in house.
These services include sexual abuse and other types of counseling and treatment,
intensive in-home services and, in some cases, family unity meetings. Which
services are contracted out and whether the service is delivered at all in
the community varies substantially across branches.
In addition, the legislature recently established County Commissions on Children
and Families to focus on the prevention side of the service spectrum. The
commissions are not required to include either SCF or domestic violence
representatives and are meant to be made up of lay people in the community.
The commissions are charged with developing local plans, and are allocated
funding to make grants within the community. In many of the counties we visited,
however, the commissions appeared to be having difficulty developing focused
Child Welfare Agency Approach to Domestic Violence
State SCF administrators became aware of the significance of domestic violence, in part, through a cohort study examining the prevalence of various family factors in SCF-involved families (Child Welfare Partnership, undated). The study found that 26 percent of families with children entering care between 1991 and 1993 were affected by domestic violence, without that factor being recognized by any formal assessment process. Domestic violence was one of the family factors that distinguished severe physical abuse cases from cases of moderate or mild abuse.(4)
Meanwhile, only 2 percent of all families were offered domestic violence treatment and only 25 percent of those families completed the services. In addition, a review of child fatalities in Oregon also documented a high level of domestic violence.
In 1994 the state SCF office, in collaboration with the Oregon Coalition
Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, applied for and received a federal
Office of Community Services (OCS) grant to develop and complete training,
hold meetings to encourage local-level collaboration, and implement a pilot
program in a local SCF branch office (Marion County). A second, similar pilot
in Benton County was funded by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
The pilots involved placing a domestic violence advocate (funded for 15 hours
per week) in the SCF office to consult with workers and supervisors on specific
cases and to provide support and services to the mothers and their children.
These pilots began in August 1995 and ran until February 1996. Marion County
has been able to continue the advocate position at a reduced
The state SCF office has not set policy directives on how best to work with
families affected by domestic violence. The pilot projects were meant to
be the beginning of an on-going process to consider how best to address the
issue at the state level (beyond providing training). A booklet explaining
Oregon's Mandatory Reporting Law identifies domestic violence as a factor
contributing to threat of harm or emotional abuse to the child.
While the state office acknowledges the importance of efforts to integrate
domestic violence into policy and systems change at the state level, it also
is attempting to have a dialogue on this issue within SCF and with other
organizations at all levels of the state in order to encourage changes in
actual SCF practice. The OCS grant funded seven meetings around the state
to encourage collaboration at the local level between SCF branch managers,
SCF supervisors, and domestic violence program directors. The meetings included
small group discussions on specific cases that involved domestic violence--what
current casework practice is and how SCF might respond differently. In addition,
the group identified various ways the localities could further collaborate,
by holding joint staffings and joint training, and by developing support
groups. SCF is encouraging its branches to sit on local domestic violence
councils and to invite domestic violence participation on its multi-disciplinary
Of the 15 branches contacted by the Child Welfare Partnership during a follow-up survey on the OCS-funded management meetings, all but one branch routinely consults by telephone with a local domestic violence organization regarding specific cases.(7)
Three branches jointly review specific cases at intake and five reported
joint staffings of specific cases. A third of the branches reported that
domestic violence representatives have attended family unity meetings. More
than a third of the branches provided training for domestic violence staff
and held their own training/practice forums for SCF workers.
Not all efforts at the local level derived from state-led initiatives. The
Lane County SCF began to address directly the issue of domestic violence
about three years ago, after a number of child fatalities occurred and the
community observed that the only problem common to all the families was domestic
violence. SCF had been involved with some but not all of the families. Because
of this heightened awareness, SCF began to screen for domestic violence and
petition for court jurisdiction based on emotional abuse in cases where domestic
violence was the prevailing factor warranting intervention. The district
attorney and the juvenile court judge were receptive to SCF involvement in
these cases. In order to work with families for whom domestic violence is
the primary allegation of abuse, however, the Lane County SCF branch has
had to limit its provision (of all SCF services) to families with children
under the age of 14. According to this supervisor, this shift has allowed
SCF to give priority to families with greater needs.
The state used a portion of the Office of Community Services Grant to provide
training to Protective Services staff on domestic violence. The OCS training
for SCF workers was held in eight locations around the state. The training
was optional and approximately 190 people participated from 30 of the state's
36 branch offices. Multnomah County, which received two training sessions
funded by the OCS grant, also contracted for an additional two training sessions
in collaboration with its local domestic violence shelter.
The state also conducts a six-week intensive core curriculum training for
new protective services workers (and existing workers who were hired prior
to the implementation of the core curriculum) that has generally included
some basic training on domestic violence. The domestic violence trainer reviewed
the core curriculum as a part of the OCS grant in order to integrate domestic
violence issues more fully. The trainer will include more case examples involving
domestic violence throughout the material, and will retain the issue as a
Domestic violence was also a primary focus of the three-day Western Regional
Symposium on Child Abuse and Sexual Assault, sponsored by the Springfield
Child Abuse Resource in November 1995. The symposium included experts in
domestic violence and its effects on children, a batterer intervention service
provider, and representatives from Michigan who presented portions of the
recently developed Family Violence Prevention Fund curriculum for family
preservation workers. This conference reached several hundred attendees,
including law enforcement officers, therapists, MDT members, and SCF workers.
In addition, the state conducted training for domestic violence workers on
issues related to SCF. This training focused primarily on explaining the
role of SCF, the criteria that must be met in order to investigate a family
and to intervene, and the boundaries of SCF's authority. Thirty-five
representatives from 17 of the state's 31 domestic violence programs attended
the training. Several shorter versions of this training were held around
the state to accommodate domestic violence advocates unable to attend the
Some local domestic violence providers have conducted additional training
for SCF workers in their areas. The Benton County domestic violence advocate
conducted three training sessions for local SCF workers and one for an adjacent
county. This joint training at the local level was helpful, in part because
it allowed the two service communities to begin to develop relationships.
According to an evaluation conducted by the Child Welfare Partnership, domestic
violence workers at the other pilot site and at least five other counties
in the state also participated in training for local SCF workers.
Intake and Assessment
The state SCF office is currently revising the assessment protocol to aid
workers in identifying domestic violence and is also adding domestic violence
to its risk assessment criteria. In addition, as part of an overall effort
to update the management information system, computer screens are being developed
to prompt intake workers to ask questions regarding domestic violence and
to note the responses in their report. SCF offices continue to struggle in
deciding which cases need to be investigated by protective services when
domestic violence is identified, particularly when it is the primary risk
factor. Emotional abuse is very difficult to prove, and the desire to become
involved in these cases depends a great deal on the level of perceived
cooperation from the local district attorney's office and the presiding judge(s).
Marion County intake workers have become very sensitized to domestic violence.
They screen incoming police reports of domestic violence for involvement
of children (particularly to determine if children were the initial reporters
to 911) and to determine the chronicity and intensity of the domestic violence
going on in the household. For child abuse and neglect reports, screeners
attempt to talk to a number of people to obtain additional information, including
questions to police and schools about ongoing domestic violence and behavior
of children. Workers in Marion County try, but are not required, to talk
to the mother separately if possible.
The Portland Metro Region/Multnomah County is currently developing a protocol
to identify domestic violence in its caseload. The protocol is being developed
by a monthly working group consisting of SCF staff and local domestic violence
program advocates. The protocol will be specifically geared toward the Portland
area. It will describe processes for working with other area agencies when
responding to an intake report where domestic violence is identified or
suspected. Currently, screeners do not probe for domestic violence or a history
of violence in the family. The protocol is one effort to help staff begin
to look at the frequency and severity of domestic violence and to help coordinate
with the many other local public agencies around this issue. Although this
protocol is available for use in draft form, most staff have not begun to
With support from the OCS grant, the Benton County SCF office's domestic
violence advocate arranged for the police department to refer to SCF all
reports of domestic violence with children in the family. During the pilot
period, she reviewed each report and consulted with SCF if she felt the incident
warranted its involvement. In some cases, information on the law enforcement
history, the use of weapons, and history of domestic violence in the home,
coupled with the presence of young children, was enough to warrant a report
being investigated even when no actual physical abuse to the child had occurred.
If the case met SCF standards, the domestic violence advocate and the CPS
worker would visit the family together. If the case did not meet the SCF
standard for investigation, the advocate would visit each woman on her own.
Unfortunately, the pilot ended just as the advocate began to see some of
the same families being referred a second time.
Lane County has also been receiving domestic violence reports from law
enforcement where children are in the family. Other community reporters have
begun reporting families to SCF when domestic violence is the only indication
of abuse in the family. Domestic violence workers in the community were concerned
that domestic violence had become equated with child abuse. Many staff of
community-based programs serving battered women are mandatory reporters of
child maltreatment and must now report domestic violence incidents to SCF.
This may make the women less likely to seek help from service providers in
SCF screeners in Lane County probe the reporter about the presence of domestic
violence. Unless the violence is particularly severe or chronic, domestic
violence cases assigned for SCF investigation are primarily those involving
infants and pre-school age children. The number of domestic violence cases
has doubled since the branch decided to assign cases without any physical
injury to the child. Investigation workers call all four police jurisdictions
in the county as well as the district attorney's office to inquire about
both past and present restraining orders. In addition, the workers ask indirect
questions of family members to probe for the existence of domestic violence
in the household.
On-site Domestic Violence Advocate
Through the pilot program, two counties were able to place a part-time domestic
violence advocate in their local SCF office. These advocates also worked
part-time for the local domestic violence shelter. At least one other county
has a domestic violence worker on-site for case staffings once a week.
One benefit of having an on-site domestic violence expert has been the ability
to educate workers one-on-one by discussing specific cases and having informal
conversations about the issue. According to the domestic violence advocate
in Marion County, worker awareness has become more consistent since she began.
However, though she has helped to correct misinformation that was floating
through the organization, she feels that it will take much longer than six
months to change long-held beliefs.
One branch manager who oversaw two county offices--one that had an on-site
advocate and one that did not--noted a dramatic difference in the ability
of the respective SCF workers to integrate information from their training
into their work style. The presence of an on-site advocate provided two major
benefits. The advocate worked to promote understanding and awareness among
the workers and helped to change the way certain cases were handles. In addition,
the advocate spent a great deal of effort directly supporting and counseling
women in abusive situations, an activity that CPS workers rarely had the
time to do.
Having domestic violence advocates in-house has also allowed for questioning
of some standard SCF practices. In Marion County, for example, the advocate
and staff are trying to integrate their knowledge about domestic violence
into family unity meetings. Screening for domestic violence is critical in
order to determine whether all family members belong at the table in these
meetings. If the mother or another family member expresses any concerns or
fears about the meeting, the advocate conducts a prescreening to determine
whether a family unity meeting is appropriate. If the meeting is held, the
perpetrator may not be allowed to attend or the advocate may attend with
the mother. In addition, if a restraining order is known to exist, the
perpetrator is not allowed to attend--again, underscoring the need to screen
and probe for the existence of protection orders. Family unity meetings without
the batterer may be a useful mechanism for working with the mother and her
support system to develop a safety plan. But some domestic violence workers
remain concerned that relatives and friends to whom the woman still has ties
may be more supportive of the batterer. Many domestic violence victims have
been isolated by their batterer from those extended family members who once
In-house advocates have also stressed the importance of looking at the domestic
violence dynamic before placing a child with other family members. The
perpetrator's parents and other relatives must be screened with particular
care because they may not support the mother and may be abusive themselves.
Advocates have also worked with extended family members who are concerned
about a mother's safety, particularly in instances where the mother remains
with her partner. The advocate can counsel concerned relatives about what
actions they can take to help the victim and her children.
Services to Battered Women
The Mid-Valley Women's Crisis Service in Marion County runs voluntary support
groups for any past or present victim of domestic violence. These groups
are open to referrals from SCF. In addition, through the pilot project the
domestic violence advocate at SCF began a support group specifically for
SCF clients. Originally, only voluntary referrals were made, and very few
women came. Now, mandatory referrals are taken but the advocate reports to
SCF only the dates of attendance, not information that women disclose during
the group session. According to both SCF workers and the advocate, hearing
peers talk about domestic violence has been critical for many of these women
in motivating change and providing credibility to the message conveyed by
Another SCF branch also mandated victims of domestic violence into support
groups. This branch previously had provided support groups in house but a
year prior began contracting with an existing service provider to hold the
support groups. The domestic violence program in the area refused to contract
with SCF because it did not want to be obligated to report to caseworkers
on the attendance, statements, or behaviors of the women in its groups.
Children's Support Groups
Most services for children exposed to domestic violence are provided through
community domestic violence programs. Generally these services are only available
for children who are or have been in a battered women's shelter. SCF offices
in the pilot projects collaborated with their domestic violence programs
to develop therapeutic support groups for SCF children exposed to violence.
Both pilot counties found establishing children's groups to be quite difficult.
Referrals were much lower than expected, in part because the group in one
county was run during school hours, and SCF workers may have been reluctant
to use or may not have known about the new service. Coordinating transportation
for children in foster care who are geographically dispersed and not always
in a stable placement is extremely challenging. In addition, one specialist
felt that these children needed individual therapy before they could benefit
from group therapy. Many children in SCF-involved families faced problems
other than domestic violence (e.g., physical or sexual abuse) and all of
the children were living in unstable situations, either because they were
in temporary foster care or because they remained with the mother in a volatile
Working with the Batterer
SCF is required to work with both the victim and the batterer if he is the
father of one of the children in the household or resides in the children's
household. Even when parents have separated, most agencies provide service
plans for both parents. Often both parents have issues to work through, and
the possibility remains that the children will be returned to either parent.
Past violent behavior does not permanently negate a father's right or
responsibility to care for or visit his children.
Few SCF workers had received any training on the manipulative behavior patterns
of batterers and they did not have the necessary tools for working with
perpetrators. According to several domestic violence workers, some SCF staff
are still in denial about the level of harm and danger batterers can inflict--a
situation somewhat similar to how SCF used to regard sex offenders before
receiving extensive training in this area. In one county, several domestic
violence workers said they observed case managers unwittingly controlled
and manipulated by batterers.
Only a few branches had access to a batterer intervention program. A new
24-week program in Marion County had recently started and was well received
by both the SCF and the domestic violence community. In Lane County, SCF
began to contract with a local service provider to begin a batterer intervention
program because none existed in the community. Since then, the court has
also mandated offenders into the program. Multnomah County is also investigating
the possibility of contracting out for batterer intervention services when
its biannual contracts come up for renewal. Several other counties lamented
the absence of batterer treatment in their communities but had not attempted
to cultivate a program through their own service mechanisms.
Perspectives of Other Community Service Agencies and Organizations
Linkages between SCF and outside groups to address the overlap between domestic
violence and child abuse can be found at a number of levels within the state
of Oregon, but vary from one community to another. It is clear that SCF's
ability to work effectively with victims of domestic violence and their children
largely depends on the broader community's response to domestic violence.
In one county where the community's response to domestic violence was poor,
the branch manager noted that it is often the legal system and other societal
institutions that give a batterer the right to stay in "his" home, forcing
SCF to remove children or ask the mother to leave. SCF can help a woman obtain
a restraining order and encourage her to call the police, but if law enforcement
does not enforce the order when she calls for help, the helplessness of the
victim is reinforced.
Efforts to increase communication and collaboration, both formally and
informally, were first steps toward addressing the needs of both victims
and children. About two years ago the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and
Sexual Violence obtained a grant from the State Justice Institute to support
the formation of a state-wide domestic violence council whose purpose was
to develop protocols for various parts of the criminal justice system. Membership
on the council included representatives from virtually every relevant justice,
victim, and other service sector. Now nearing the end of its two-year grant
the Council's several committees have drafted protocols in the areas of law
enforcement, prosecution, probation, batterer intervention, and victim services,
among others. Unfortunately, the committees responsible for developing these
protocols were formed with membership almost exclusively within their own
agency type (e.g., most members of the law enforcement protocol development
committee were from law enforcement), so the protocols did not benefit from
the council's multi-agency makeup. Domestic violence advocates, in particular,
did not see some of these protocols until they were in final draft form.
Again, it is through collaborative efforts at the local level that changes
in practice are expected. A number of counties have placed domestic violence
advocates on their multi-disciplinary teams (MDT). The children's program
coordinator from the Marion County domestic violence program was invited
to sit on the state child fatality review team several years ago. At the
same time, she joined the county MDT that reviews both child fatalities and
particularly complicated or severe child abuse cases. Because of the relationship
that developed between the Benton County supervisor and the domestic violence
advocate during the pilot period, the county's MDT has finally consented
to include a domestic violence representative.
Many local counties also have a domestic violence council chaired by the
county's prosecuting attorney. In many counties, SCF staff are encouraged
to (and do) participate on the councils. One SCF council representative felt
that her presence had made an impact by expanding the focus of domestic violence
to its effects on children.
Members of the Willamette Criminal Justice Council are working with more
than two-thirds of the state's district attorneys to develop an integrated
criminal justice data system that will cover the courts, law enforcement,
parole, probation, and the Department of Human Resources.
Domestic Violence Programs
Partial funding for domestic violence programs and shelters is administered
through SCF. Thirty-one domestic violence programs provide crisis lines,
emergency shelter, and related services. Nineteen programs have shelters
with approximately 340 beds for both adults and children statewide. Eleven
additional programs are safe home networks. During the first half of 1995,
1,297 women (752 with children) received shelter. During this time there
were 7,146 requests for shelter for adult victims (and 7,193 children) that
could not be met due to lack of space.(8)
Positive working relationships are being developed between SCF staff and
domestic violence workers, but these efforts are hampered by high turnover
on both sides. Strong relationships are the result of several years of building
trust, communicating openly, and working together to serve the needs of
particular families. Domestic violence advocates working in SCF offices
facilitated the process of relationship building. In Marion County, a domestic
violence service provider recalled that prior to the initiation of the pilot
project, their relationship with SCF had been very problematic and it was
difficult to get anything done. Now, both the domestic violence program staff
and SCF workers are more likely to call each other about particular families
In Lane County, the SCF branch contracted with a private provider to attend
case staffings once a week and to consult with workers. The SCF workers clearly
desired and took advantage of this service, and were slowly beginning to
understand how to work more effectively with families affected by domestic
violence. Because the private provider was not the long-standing domestic
violence program in the county, however, the education process did not flow
back to the domestic violence community (as happened in the pilot counties).
The domestic violence workers were very concerned about SCF's role in these
families' lives, in part because they did not feel that SCF always worked
with women appropriately, but also because they did not fully understand
how SCF worked with the families.
The strength of the law enforcement, prosecution, and judicial response to
domestic violence is critical to efforts on SCF's part to hold a batterer
accountable, particularly in cases where the batterer may not be the father
of the children in question or, even if he is the father, does not have a
stake in whether the children are removed from the home. In Marion County,
Salem City police were making stronger efforts to go beyond responding to
domestic violence reports and to pursue a batterer who had left the scene
in order to make an arrest. In other counties, officers work under a mandatory
arrest policy, but are unlikely to follow up on an incident if the perpetrator
leaves the scene.
Several SCF counties or branches had started to arrange for the local police
department to refer reports of domestic violence incidents involving families
with children to SCF. Some police departments are encouraging officers to
include in the report the specific location and involvement of the children
during the incident. However, working relationships differ between individual
workers, officers, and SCF branches.
In one county's police department, the designated child abuse detective conducts
a criminal history check on all child abuse cases that come to him. According
to him, both he and SCF share information frequently. In addition, he often
runs a check to determine how many times the police have been out to a particular
address for domestic violence, even when no arrests were made. Any knowledge
regarding the existence of domestic violence is used to assess further potential
harm to the children. He sees a direct correlation between child abuse and
domestic violence, and reports that the majority of his cases have both going
on and that many of the same problems affect families with either type of
Once a batterer has been convicted, enforcement of parole or probation terms
is another hook which SCF can sometimes use. In one county, SCF works closely
with probation or parole to ensure that the batterer follows through on
treatment. For example, a batterer may fail to comply with treatment requirements
under his SCF service plan in the juvenile court, despite the fact that SCF
pays for the treatment. Once convicted in criminal court, however, he will
be required to go into treatment again, this time at his own expense. Probation
officers and SCF communicate openly on these cases. In another county, SCF
workers conduct joint home visits with probation officers in order to benefit
from the latter's ability to make unannounced visits. This relationship,
however, is limited by the extremely large caseloads probation officers carry
(300 to 1,000 clients each).
The structure of the judicial system and the courts' involvement in the lives
of families also vary. In some counties a variation of a unified family court
system exists whereby the same judge can see the same family regardless of
whether the case involves a civil, criminal, or juvenile justice matter.
The Multnomah County court has a family law department which handles all
cases involving restraining orders and other family law matters. The court
has six full-time judges and several rotating juvenile court referees who
hear family violence cases. The extent to which this authority has resulted
in greater communication and fewer conflicting orders was not directly evident.
In Benton County, two circuit court judges preside over all proceedings including
probate, criminal, divorce, restraining orders, and juvenile cases. The
restraining order application asks whether children were present at the time
of the incident. When an order comes in, a clerk usually pulls existing files
and the judge tries to coordinate orders. The judge also probes about custody
and visitation issues, but he rarely refers a family to SCF unless an incident
is egregious. In this county, both the judge and the district attorney's
office would like to see SCF more involved in families where domestic violence
may be the only presenting issue. At this point, however, they understand
that SCF is unable to get involved because of limited resources.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services
Drug addiction, particularly to methamphetamine, is a major problem among
SCF-involved families. Workers in Lane County estimate that 80 percent of
their families are drug involved. Ninety-five to 98 percent of Marion County
SCF cases involve drugs or alcohol abuse. Crystal methamphetamine has become
an increasing problem, particularly in abuse cases because it heightens any
existing predisposition to violence.
Unfortunately, affordable drug and alcohol treatment for mothers with children
is a major service gap in many communities. Oregon has allocated funding
to provide treatment to women on AFDC, and in at least one county, SCF staff
worked closely with public assistance personnel to access this resource when
Shelter for domestic violence victims with drug or alcohol addictions is
also difficult to obtain. Many domestic violence programs believe women need
to deal with substance abuse issues before they can benefit from shelter
services. Many shelters work with women who are not actively using drugs
or alcohol and have at least begun the process of treating their addiction.
A lack of residential drug and alcohol treatment, in particular, means there
are few places for SCF and their families to turn to when substance abuse
is a major issue.
Outcome and Evaluation Issues
SCF contracted with the Child Welfare Partnership at Portland State University
to develop a profile of SCF-involved families experiencing domestic violence
and to evaluate the activities undertaken with OCS grant funds. The evaluation
was limited by the resources provided and by the nature of the grant efforts.
Using case information collected for their cohort study on families entering
foster care between 1991 and 1993, researchers assessed the type and severity
of abuse and neglect in families presenting domestic violence, the existence
of other parent or child issues, and services provided. According to the
Child Welfare Partnership, domestic violence was present in 34 percent of
cases where the primary reason for removal was physical abuse, 31 percent
of neglect cases, 22 percent of sexual abuse cases, 36 percent of threat
of harm cases, and 36 percent of mental abuse cases. Drug and alcohol were
much more likely to be involved in cases affected by domestic violence (73
percent) than those unaffected by domestic violence (47 percent). A number
of other factors including poor parenting skills, unemployment, abusiveness
to children, criminal involvement, and chronic neglect were also seen at
higher rates in families where domestic violence was identified. Children
were returned home in 43 percent of families with domestic violence compared
to an overall return rate of 52 percent.
The evaluation also conducted a client history survey of participants in
the pilot counties, a telephone survey of 15 SCF branches and 10 domestic
violence organizations to follow up on the management meetings, and focus
groups of workers in five branches on the training and the impact of domestic
violence in case practice. These efforts helped to determine the extent to
which collaboration is currently taking place in many localities, and workers'
needs in regard to dealing more effectively with domestic violence.
Oregon is beginning to change case practice around domestic violence. The
state is engaged in a two-pronged effort to support system change at the
state level while encouraging collaboration and changes in practice at the
local level. Despite variations between the two levels and across counties
in terms of the level and progress of efforts being made, a number of consistent
themes emerged from our study.
Although statewide training did not reach all CPS workers, it was designed
to raise staff awareness and educate them on many aspects of domestic violence
and local resources. Such an awareness is critical to help identify the problems
among families being served, to provide more options to women without further
victimizing them, and to assess the appropriateness of various interventions
for a particular family.
At the same time, awareness alone is not sufficient to change how SCF works
with these families. Differences between counties with pilot programs and
other counties demonstrated workers' needs for tools and resources to support
and protect victims. The on-site advocates were able to work with caseworkers
to change how cases were being handled. By working on a case-by-case basis,
the advocates could translate the training into changes in practice. Furthermore,
the ability of advocates to spend time with women was a resource other counties
did not have.
Both the training of domestic violence providers and the placement of an
in-house advocate from the local domestic violence program served to educate
the domestic violence community as well. Domestic violence program staff
in the pilot counties better understood the issues facing SCF. When a family
was involved with SCF, the domestic violence provider could address rather
than support the woman's anger at and fear of SCF.
Families involved in SCF often differ from those traditionally seen by domestic
violence programs. According to collaborating SCF and domestic violence program
workers in the two pilot counties, women in SCF families are less likely
to be ready to leave their batterer, and their families are more likely to
face multiple issues. In the families with whom SCF intervenes, battered
women have not sought assistance from the domestic violence program voluntarily,
and children have been harmed either emotionally or physically. The level
of harm (or risk of harm) that must occur before a case is assigned in these
counties is quite high. Furthermore, drug or alcohol use is very prevalent
in SCF families. Women in domestic violence shelters have at least begun
the process of leaving an abusive partner and are less likely to be actively
using drugs or alcohol.
Domestic violence workers in one county that did not collaborate with the
SCF office still held fairly antagonistic views toward the child protection
agency. For example, workers in the domestic violence program believed that
SCF workers still placed the blame on the adult victim and that women were
often mandated to go to a shelter. Because this county's law enforcement
response did not appear to be holding batterers accountable in general, it
may be that the SCF workers had no choice but to mandate women to shelter
for the sake of their children. If the domestic violence program worked more
closely with SCF, SCF could perhaps learn to respond to the women more
positively. At the same time, the domestic violence program would better
understand the limitations placed on SCF when community response is not
Concern for safety of workers and families is also evident in communities
where an awareness of domestic violence existed without adequate means to
address it. According to several sources, domestic violence cases involve
higher levels of stress and potential danger for SCF workers. One investigation
worker noted that death threats were unique to domestic violence cases, making
workers reluctant to accept domestic violence cases assigned for investigation.
Domestic violence workers also expressed concern that SCF staff needed additional
training in order to serve these families well and that SCF was placing
themselves and the families at risk.
Community collaboration at the local level in addressing both domestic violence
and its impact on children is also critical to SCF efforts to address domestic
violence in its caseload. Again, the ability to hold the batterer accountable
primarily depends on law enforcement and the criminal justice system's response
to domestic violence as a crime. Uniformity of response to the victim, the
batterer, and the children in a domestic violence situation is another benefit
of collaboration. The pilot projects generated a more consistent message
to victims from their SCF workers, the domestic violence programs, and the
advocate and peers within the support groups.
The advisory group for the OCS grant is continuing to deliberate about further needs. It is clear from discussions with local staff and domestic violence advocates that some workers still need basic education on domestic violence. Other workers need and want training on specific language to use with victims, questions to ask, and tools to use to ensure greater safety for the children, mother, and the worker. Specifically, they seek information on how to work with families with multiple issues, particularly those in which the woman wants to remain in the abusive relationship. Another gap in training that came up several times is the lack of information on how to work with batterers--how to interview them, how to avoid being conned, how to motivate them, and what to expect from batterer treatment. SCF intends to use a second OCS grant to develop additional training to address these issues and reinstate and expand the pilot projects.
1. This site visit was conducted in April 1996.
2. In other parts of the state, SCF branches support one or two counties.
3. The degree of flexibility perceived by branches, however, also varied significantly.
4. Other factors associated with severe physical abuse include the presence of a new baby in the household, a history of criminal involvement, and unemployment.
5. SCF recently received continuation funding of its federal grant to maintain and expand these pilot efforts.
6. These multi-disciplinary teams are required in each county and are convened by the District Attorney's office to review SCF cases involving criminal prosecution and child fatalities. Some counties also use their MDTs to discuss how to serve other families in crisis in the community, both in and outside of SCF. A core set of individuals is mandated to participate in each community, but the DA is free to include additional parties.
7. SCF contracted with the Child Welfare Partnership at Portland State University to evaluate activities supported by the OCS grant.
8. This is probably an overestimate of the number of victims, because they may have requested shelter from more than one program.
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Human Services Policy (HSP)
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)