Alliance Created By OHSU'S CDRC Develops Statewide Plan to Protect Children With Disabilities

06/29/00    Portland, Ore.

Two New Publications Available to the Public Are Part of Plan to Raise Awareness and Prevent Maltreatment of Children With Disabilities

More than 11,000 Oregon children were victims of abuse and neglect last year, according to the Oregon State Office of Services to Children & Families. In fact, this state has the second highest number of child maltreatment fatalities in the nation. All children are at risk, but those with disabilities are twice as likely to be maltreated than any other group of children. Community professionals and the public now have a new tool to help them protect these children. The Oregon Alliance for Kids with Special Needs, or OAKS, an alliance created by the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center at Oregon Health Sciences University, has released two publications that offer people who work with children with disabilities guidelines on how to look for signs of abuse and neglect in a population at increased risk for maltreatment.

The publications "Every Child Special - Every Child Safe: Protecting Children With Disabilities From Maltreatment, A Call to Action" and "Community Implementation Guide to Prevent Maltreatment of Children With Disabilities" were written by a team of human services professionals, community members, the Multicultural Family Advisory Council and staff at the CDRC. Together they make up OAKS.

The purpose of the Call to Action publication is to raise awareness about the relationship between childhood disability and maltreatment, identify service gaps and opportunities for improvement, and stimulate community-based change to prevent and respond to maltreatment. The publication calls for adjusting the reporting system to better obtain an accurate number of reported cases involving children with disabilities. In addition, authors of the report recommend that abuse response professionals receive training to help sensitize them to the specific vulnerabilities of children with disabilities, and how to distinguish abuse symptoms from features of the disability itself. Prevention measures also are laid out in the plan.

The Community Implementation Guide is a user-friendly tool for community-based intervention. It provides resource information, and encourages community-level coalitions to develop and implement plans specific to the needs and resources of their communities.

The creation of OAKS and its four-year strategic planning effort was fueled by the hard work of a concerned community and a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Developmental Disabilities. The grant is one of the administration's Projects of National Significance. These projects focus on the most pressing issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and their families, and are designed to permit local implementation of practical solutions.

"Case managers in the field of child maltreatment help children; disability specialists in the community help children. But historically, there hasn't been enough crossover between the two groups, though both are aware of many abuse incidents involving children with disabilities," said Gloria Krahn, Ph.D., M.P.H, co-principal investigator for the OAKS project and associate director for CDRC. Krahn continued, "The OAKS plan would remedy this situation and provide greater protection for our communities' most vulnerable members."

Children with disabilities face increased risk for maltreatment due to communication or physical deficits that prevent them from defending themselves. They also may have mental delays that make them more susceptible to coercion into abusive situations. The potential for longer duration of maltreatment, more severe and long-lasting trauma due to the abuse, and reduced likelihood of intervention are all increased when a victim of abuse has disabilities.

"Every Child Special - Every Child Safe: Protecting Children With Disabilities From Maltreatment, A Call to Action" and "Community Implementation Guide to Prevent Maltreatment of Children With Disabilities" are available online at: http://www.ohsu.edu/cdrc/oaks

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