Paige Sanders, Child Permanency Services (CPS) Supervisor, and her staff will be speaking with us about the Harm Reduction model of child welfare and how they use it in practice.
Harm Reduction was first applied to substance use. There are thousands of coalitions across the nation putting this research into practice. It is the entire premise for Narcan shots, needle exchanges, and even drug court. A lot of what we already do in child welfare is from a Harm reduction stance. Every time we do a visit between a parent and child, and the parent is still actively using, that is harm reduction. We are asserting that a parent does not have to be 100% abstinent from drugs to love and visit with their child. But harm reduction is more than just a stance of parents using. It is about a framework for all harm associated with child abuse and neglect.
What we will discuss is a way to talk about harm that encompasses all of these principles. We would like to say first that there is a difference between safety, risk, and harm.
Safety- we frequently use the phrase ‘safety risk’ or ‘safety behaviors’ in a negative way. In fact, safety is what we want. We want to increase family safety and a parent’s safety behaviors.
Risk- Risk is the next step up on the hierarchy, from safety. There can be risk for harm and no actual harm. This is where we have the opportunity to shift our paradigm in child welfare. We have to ask ourselves- “At what point do we stop keeping kids in care just because there is a risk?” and tell ourselves “It is impossible to plan for every risk”.
Harm- harm is real, actual, tangible threat to the safety of a child. Harm should be behavioral, quantifiable, and observable. If we find ourselves predicting harm, then we are talking about risk.