Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oregon Child Abuse Cases Drop Dramatically in Lane County

By Stacia Kalinoski

EUGENE, Ore. -- After increasing in 2010, child abuse cases in Lane County have dropped dramatically this year.

So far, thirty percent fewer children have been taken into the state's care.

DHS District Manager John Radich attributes that to places like Willamette Family, which is considered an in-home service.

Last year, the state reallocated money for in-home services, so kids didn't have to straight to foster care.

To fund those agencies, Radich says the state took money away from parenting classes.

Radich says parenting classes don't do much good if the kids are in foster care.

But with in-home services, parents get parenting advice, treatment and can stay with their children all at the same time.

Holding her six-week-old baby girl is something Nikia Modrell may not have been able to do, if she was in this position a year ago.

"I would probably still be out on the streets," Modrell said.

And her baby would be in foster care. But thanks to more state funding for in-home services, Nikia is living in a home setting, at Willamette Family in Eugene.

It's a health, wellness, and drug recovery agency.

She can take care of her baby and get treatment for drug abuse at the same time.

"Being able to bond with my newborn is really important and if we were seperated we wouldn't be able to do that," she said.

"The more we can keep the parents connected and involved with the kids, I think the better chance we have of them addressing their issues and behaviors they need to change," said Radich.

"We look at attachment and bonding, we don't want to interupt that process," said Chris Sterling, Oregon Child Protective Service worker.

Sterling says more support from relatives is also a reason for the decline, and so far, the theories seems to be working. In 2010, petitions to have children placed under state custody rose 15 percent in Lane County.


"Twenty to 30 percent less than we had a year ago. I'm a little surprised our numbers are down this much based on the economy," said Radich.

The numbers are now back to where they were before the economy tanked, in 2007.

Last year, DHS had 60 child abuse cases a month in Lane County.

So far this year, it's 40.

Nikia is grateful to be part of this year's success rate.

I'm learning how to be clean and sober. It's everything that I've needed," she said.

Radich says DHS is understaffed, So he hopes fewer cases means his employees can spend more quality time with children in foster care.

Another benefit to fewer cases is that it saves taxpayers money.

Radich says it costs $22,000 a year for just one kid to go through the foster care system in Oregon.


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