Fifth Annual Conference on Differential Response in Child Welfare

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November 8-10, 2010, Anaheim, Calif.

At the 2010 conference, each workshop focused on one or more of the following tracks:

  1. Prevention and early intervention of child abuse and neglect
  2. Differential or alternative response, also called family assessment response
  3. Traditional response/investigation
  4. Chronic neglect, also call frequently encountered families

In an effort to bring the voices of children and families into our conference space, American Humane Association reached out to some of your colleagues in the field, and asked them to gather messages from the children and families they work with. These “Wish Sheets” were displayed at the conference.

What Participants Said About the 2010 Conference

“I had very limited understanding of differential response and this conference gave me great knowledge about the practice and why this can work over the current systems.”

“The speakers were very educated, informed, inspiring, motivated and charismatic.”

“Thank you for this opportunity. This event recharges and renews my vision.”

Speaker Highlights

Caren Kaplan, of American Humane Association, moderated the opening session. Caren discussed each of the four pathways offered at this year’s conference and how they give a more complete picture of child welfare.

Patricia Schene, also of American Humane Association, spoke about a national commitment to the three major outcomes: safety, permanence and well-being. She also discussed what is needed in the field of child welfare:

  • Reduction of out-of-home placements
  • Earlier intervention
  • Primary prevention
  • Family engagement
  • Comprehensive assessments
  • Individualized case plans
  • Better connectedness within services

Differential response contributes to many of these needs, Ms. Schene pointed out, but is not a quick fix.

Patricia Ploehn from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services discussed the idea that safety means a lot more than just being physically safe. She also pointed out that keeping children safe and with their families yields better outcomes than removing them. L.A. County uses three guiding principles:

  1. Safe children
  2. Healthy families
  3. Working with others in the community

In 2005, L.A. County had 180,000 reports of child abuse. Today it has gone down to less than 16,000.

Additionally, in 2005, 70,000 children were in foster care, while today that number is down to 20,000. This is due to L.A. County’s focus on safety and strengthening families.

Ben Tanzer from Prevent Child Abuse America spoke about engaging the community and tapping into public support about our work. Ben pointed out that it’s often overwhelming for people to hear how CPS has failed them again; instead of wanting to get involved, they run in the other direction.

Ben talked about reframing the public message about child welfare issues to explain what the public can do about abuse and neglect.

Carol Redding from Health Presentations spoke about overcoming her childhood experiences with abuse and neglect and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The study asks a series of yes or no questions based on past childhood experiences related to:

  1. Recurrent physical abuse
  2. Recurrent emotional abuse
  3. Contact sexual abuse
  4. An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  5. An incarcerated household member
  6. Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized or suicidal
  7. Mother is treated violently
  8. One or no parents
  9. Emotional or physical neglect

A score of 0 means that the person did not experience any of these traumas before age 18; a score of 9 means that the person experienced trauma in all of the categories.

Ms. Redding’s score is a 9, but she managed to overcome her childhood adversities to become who she is today. She reminded participants how important their work is to help other children do the same.

After the first workshop Pat Reynolds-Hubbard from American Humane Association reminded participants that families are vitally important and deserve our respect, and that we need to ensure that our approaches are delivered with equity.

The keynote address was delivered by Robert Anda, M.D., M.S., of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Dr. Anda pointed out that, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people can only reach self-actualization after their basic needs are met. Many children are not getting their basic needs met, and that affects what happens to them as adults.

Dr. Anda spoke about the way violence causes stress and inhibits growth, and how stress can affect what genes are expressed in people. Critical foundations of brain development occur very early in child development and differential response is one way to address these indicators early on to limit the effect they have on children.

On the final day of the conference, Sonia Velázquez of American Humane Association spoke about the important work of American Humane Association, not only in differential response, but in many other important program areas.

In the plenary session, Pat Stanislaski from Partnering for Prevention discussed the phenomenon of resilience as it applies to survivors of childhood trauma, specifically child abuse and neglect. Ms. Stanislaski spoke about people’s ability to overcome traumas, how she has overcome setbacks and difficulties in her own life, and the importance of everyone feeling as though they always have someone behind them to help them. She reminded participants of how important their work is, and that they might do something today or tomorrow, unknowingly, that a child will hold on to, remember and treasure for the rest of his or her life.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” --Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

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In October 2008, American Humane Association, in partnership with Walter R. McDonald & Associates and the Institute of Applied Research, was selected to receive a federal cooperative agreement totaling nearly $10 million over five years to develop the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services. The grant was awarded by the Children’s Bureau of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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