The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Douglas County Child Welfare Program Manager, Jessica Hunter, wanted to come up with a way to better serve the community.
After brainstorming with a few people, collaborating with community partners and running her ideas past Desta Walsh, the Douglas County District Manager, Teams for Families was born. This is according to the “News Today” Teams for Families flyer.
Here’s what Teams for Families looks like
Child Welfare becomes aware of a suspected child neglect or abuse situation. Reports of child abuse come in from different sources: family members, neighbors, schools, acquaintances law enforcement or other referrals.
“What happens next is we begin the information gathering process to understand if there is a reasonable cause to believe neglect or abuse is occurring, or has occurred, and then we determine if the child is safe. If children are determined to be unsafe, we must implement a safety plan,” Hunter said.
It is during the information gathering process that Teams for Families is considered:
“Through conversation with a parent, or both parents, the caseworker determines if there is at least one cooperative parent. The caseworker looks at whether there is an in-home plan already, but perhaps the family needs more support in sustaining the in-home plan. If an out-of-family plan was necessary, the caseworker will assess all the family’s circumstances to determine if an in-home plan could quickly be achieved with interventions or services that can be provided by community partners. The caseworker then prepares to present the family’s strengths and needs to Teams for Families.
“Teams for Families is a community of providers coming together; we all have some responsibility to the process. It is important to note that parents have a choice whether to allow their family’s caseworker to meet with Teams for Families. This is their call. This allows families to have buy-in, which is important! Parents are presented as part of the team because they ARE part of the team,” Joelene Rackley, Child Welfare, Social Services Specialist in Douglas County, said.
“What is unique about Teams for Families is that desired live decision making and planning. We want to expedite service referrals to provide immediate relief and support for families,” Hunter said.
Some of the community partners that are part of this team include: ODHS Self-Sufficiency Program; Safe Haven; Family Development Center; Umpqua Health Alliance; Adapt Integrated Health Care; Options Counseling; Peace at Home Advocacy Center; ODHS nurses; Umpqua Health Alliance; Amanda Hunter, R.N.; Ivy Hunter, a Parent Navigator; Oregon Social Learning Center; Addiction Recovery Team; a Coaching, Training and Support Specialist; Safe Families for Children; Chestnut Health Systems/FAIR; Family, Faith and Relationship Advocates; Safe Families for Children; and Safe Families.
Examples of how Teams for Families works for families
The team was presented with a family in which domestic violence was an active concern. The perpetrator of domestic violence was exhibiting power and control through electronic means, such as the cell phone. The team could not schedule appointments, text or make calls without the perpetrator of the domestic violence knowing. This put the parent at risk.
“Through conversations with 12 community partners at the table it was found that some cell phone companies have services that protect victims from electronic power and control from their domestic violence perpetrator. We were able to find services that we wouldn’t have normally found. Providers stepped in to pay for these services. This is just one situation where it was obvious that Teams for Families is like doing casework in high definition,” Rackley said.
Desta Walsh, District Manager for Douglas County, said that the Teams for Families approach includes partners not usually at the table such as in the above situation there was someone who knew about cell phone company assistance in electronic domestic violence.
“Everyone can hear from everyone else about what is going on – rather than piecemeal, which can cause things to be missed. Decisions made are strength-based for the families,” Walsh said.
Another great example of Teams for Families at work is about a Self-Sufficiency Program Case Manager who referred a family to be presented at Teams for Families.
“This was a parent with children who was houseless. Everybody put their heads together – how do we fund housing for them and how could we sustain it? From the partners we work with we learned there were some new mini-housing units available. We were able to expedite this referral process and get this family into this housing within a day or so,” Rackley said.
Success is shown in the data
From September 2022 to July 2023 there have been 26 families staffed at Teams for Families.
- 26 families were offered services from 1 or more service providers
- At the 1-, 2- & 3-month check ins, 13 families had sustained their in-home plans
- 5 in-home plans were achieved
- 3 families in which services were provided, or ideas/suggestions provided, and no court case needed to be filed
- 1 family in which an in-home plan was not able to be sustained
- 2 families still in an out of home plan
- 1 case dismissal of jurisdiction
“We hear from caseworkers that families are really feeling that support and they like the wraparound services. And this is what’s important,” Walsh said.
Teams for Families is passionate about and is focused on the Vision for Transformation which “supports the individual needs of families and best serves Oregon’s children and young people.”
WE ARE TEAMS FOR FAMILIES:
WE COME TO THE TABLE WITH A STRENGTH-BASED APPROACH
WE COME TO THE TABLE WITH YEARS OF KNOWLEDGE BETWEEN US REGARDING COMMUNITY SERVICES- WE CAN HELP!
WE COME TO THE TABLE RECOGNIZING THE PRIVILEDGE OF BEING IN A POSITION TO COLLABORATE W/FELLOW COMMUNITY PARTNERS TO ADDRESS A FAMILY’S NEEDS
WE BELIEVE CHANGE IS POSSIBLE