Saturday, March 08, 2008

Abuse is Everybody's Business

The sign says:
Every year, hundreds of Oregonians with developmental disabilities are abused and neglected
you are the eyes and ears of your community
If you even suspect that a person with developmental disabilities is being
abused o r neglected
call toll free 1-8 6 6-4 0 6-4 2 8 7

We are aware that the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities has a plan to send this poster to every group home and foster home in the state of Oregon as part of their campaign to encourage citizen reporting of suspected abuse and neglect.

Since we have a grown kid living in a foster home, we are taking this plan hatched by OCDD very personally.

We know that a small group of insiders funded with our federal advocacy dollars crafted this sign. There was no community conversation, no discussion as to whether or not this sign is well designed and effective, and no discussion as to whether or not such a sign hanging in group homes and foster homes is even a good idea.

Some of the points we’ve been considering include:

1.) It’s preaching to the choir: every person hired to work in these homes is already mandated to receive the necessary yearly training regarding reporting abuse (Mandatory Abuse Reporters). If the goal is to increase broader community involvement as reporters, then any information campaign should be focused outside these settings, for example, doctor’s offices, libraries, community centers, banks, schools, post offices, theaters, grocery stores, sports arenas, government offices and workplaces, etc. These are the places where untrained people can be found and encouraged to participate in reporting abuse and neglect of people with disabilities.

2.) Most of the problem is not the lack of reporting by caregivers in group homes. This focus puts the entire responsibility on the on-the-ground caregivers who are already doing their job as mandatory reporters. The real problem has been the lack of information about the outcomes of those reports from these caregivers, and the lack of prosecutions of criminal behavior. It’s not clear why the focus is on increasing reporting to protective services within these residences without the requisite changes to the systems that respond to these reports.

3.) We are told over and over again that these homes are not institutions. You can’t call someone’s residence a “homelike setting” when there are signs like this posted. How many of you have a sign posted in your home? How many of you have been “asked” by a government agency to post a sign in your home? We also believe that the people who actually live in these group and foster homes aren’t being asked at all whether they even want this sign posted in their homes. Where’s the choice and “self-direction” there?

4.) Posting a sign like this has the effect of increasing the institutional culture of these residences, which has been proven to put people at an even higher risk of abuse and neglect.

5.) Addressing this issue in private and only within the homes of people with disabilities communicates to them that this is their problem alone and that they are responsible for solving it themselves.

6.) Limiting the posting to only these settings further confirms in the abuser’s mind that this is an isolated system where abuse is easier to perpetrate. Abusers who target people with disabilities are not naive to the realities of a social services system that is underfunded to adequately respond to these reports. If there is any phone number that belongs on a sign, it is 9-1-1. Perpetrators need to know that what they are considering is a crime that will be reported to law enforcement. People with developmental disabilities need to know that, too, so that they can make an informed choice to exercise all their options when they are victims of crime.

We are requesting input, ideas and comments from readers in the community.

We are asking for a community conversation.
We are requesting input as to whether or not this sign is well designed and effective.
We are requesting a discussion as to whether or not such a sign is even a good idea.

Please give us your best thoughts. Thank you.

David and Suzanne McDonald
DAWG Oregon

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