Every child in central Oregon calls for community support
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Returning to school is no doubt exciting for many after months of distance learning in our pandemic. However, Every Child Central Oregon (ECCO), a regional nonprofit that is mobilizing the community to meet the care needs of Central Oregon, knows that some youth have been so severely abused and neglected that reports are expected to spike with the Return to the classroom.
In fact, the care system was already under unbelievably heavy loads last year. While the uncertainty and grief of COVID-19 affected everyone, the trauma it inflicted on the state’s 10,800+ youth in foster care has been unprecedented:
- Increased disruption to home placement due to the spread of COVID-19
- Personal visits to biological families have been interrupted
- Critical structure and support from school, advice and sporting support were stopped
- Shattered economic opportunity for teenagers participating in independent learning programs
- Economic stress and adapted realities for foster families who take care of these young people
In central Oregon, the growing need for care services has increased annually. Last year alone, around 400 children spent one night in care services. And with the return to school, teachers who are mandatory reporters on child abuse and neglect could be making more calls to the child abuse hotline at an alarming rate in the coming months, said Melissa Williams, director of ECCO.
“When school is back in class, we’ll have ‘eyes on kids’ again,” says Williams. “During COVID-19, child abuse authorities have seen a significant decrease in hotline calls. If you can’t see children in person, it’s difficult to grasp current events.
“The good news is that our community organizations and systems are ready to help these youth in any way we can. In the meantime, we feel it is important to support these organizations, including the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), as this could be a taxing experience for her team. This is a time when everyone needs to feel empowered and cared for. “
To address this planned need, Williams would like to remind the community that they can provide support in large and small ways, all of which are greatly appreciated:
- Joining My NeighbOR, a program that connects community member goods and services with foster families and adolescents in foster care
- Donate money to support care services
- Application for care
- Volunteering for the appreciation of the ODHS staff (snacks, lunch, coffee, etc.) along with guidance from ECCO
- Compilation of a care box (Welcome Boxes, Launch Boxes and Flash Boxes) or clothing bundles that make the recipient’s experience more manageable and positive
“We pretty much have the opportunity to give or help anyone who is willing,” says Williams. “The current demand is already alarmingly high and we expect that there will only be more when the children return to school and there is more transparency about their well-being. We ask community members who can help us prepare for and meet this need. “
To lend a hand, contact ECCO directly at 541.610.9455. Further information is available on the ECCO website: https://everychildcentraloregon.org/.