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Supporting children and families as we return to school

With children across Oregon in school full-time for the first time since the pandemic began, they are spending significant portions of their days with teachers and other education professionals.

Educators, who are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, have a unique opportunity to get to know the children and families they see daily. They are there to share and experience a child’s victories, strengths, and challenges as they learn, grow and interact with friends at school.

As mandatory reporters, when educators have a reason to believe a child is experiencing abuse or neglect, they are required by law to report that concern to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).

But what should an educator, or other caring adult, do when they see a child and family who is in need or crisis, but do not believe that a child is being abused or neglected?

Our data tell us that many people turn to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline when they want to help but are not sure how.

This year approximately 53,000, nearly half, of the calls to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline were not reports of suspected abuse or neglect. These are calls from educators and other members of our community who recognize that a child and their family might need assistance because they are struggling with hunger, housing instability, job loss, mental or physical health issues or other stressful situations.

Often these calls come to us because the callers are not sure where to turn for support.

There are many different resources and supports available in our communities to help children and families meet their needs. Sometimes, the best way to support child and family wellbeing and safety is to help them get plugged in to the resources they need.

Local supports in your community

Dial 211, or text your zip code to 898-211 to get connected to local food, housing, child care and other supports in your community.

The Family Nurturing Center offers programs and services to increase family strengths and well-being: Call 1-541-779-5242 or visit FamilyNurturingCenter.org.

ACCESS provides food, energy and housing support in Southern Oregon: Call 1-541-779-6691 or visit AccessHelps.org.

United Community Action Network provides housing, utility, food, health, child care and other supports: Visit UCANcap.org.

The Maslow Project supports children and families experiencing homelessness: Call 1-541-608-6868 or visit MaslowProject.com.

Mental and behavioral health supports

Youthline: Call 1-877-968-8491, text teen2teen to 839863, chat at www.oregonyouthline.org

LinesForLife.org/get-help-now/

Lines for Life Suicide Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 (24/7) or text 273TALK to 839863 (Monday through Friday, 2-6 p.m.)

Oregon Behavioral Health Support Line: Call 1-800-923-4357 (24/7)

Military Helpline: Call 1-888-457-4838 (24/7) or text MIL1 to 839863 (Monday through Friday, 2-6 p.m.)

Resources to help educators provide mental health and social for support children and families are available here.

Food support

Find a food local pantry by visiting foodfinder.oregonfoodbank.org.

Government programs and support

Learn about government programs and community resources for older adults and people with disabilities by contacting the Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon at 1-855-673-2372 or www.adrcoforegon.org.

Apply for government food, cash, child care assistance and the Oregon Health Plan online at ONE.Oregon.gov or by calling 1-800-699-9075.

Of course, when an educator or other caring adult suspects a child is experiencing abuse or neglect that person should, and may be required by law, to report that concern to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).

We all want children and families in Oregon to be healthy, safe and happy. Child abuse and neglect is preventable when communities come together to support children and families, and there are many organizations, nonprofits, and people who can help support families and prevent a family’s crisis from becoming a child’s safety issue.

Rebecca Jones Gaston is the director of the Child Welfare Division of the Oregon Department of Human Services, which is committed to support the safety, health and wellbeing of children and families in Oregon. Learn more about their work.