Photo by Paul Neevel

Jeff Todahl

“Kids do better with their families,” says Jeff Todahl, an associate professor in the Couples and Family Therapy Program in the University of Oregon’s College of Education. He has spent three decades working with children in the child protective services system. “Society has an obligation to help families to support their children.” Growing up in small-town Nooksack, Washington, close to the Canadian border, Todahl experienced abuse at home as a child. After high school, he worked in a cement plant and studied health and education at Western Washington University in nearby Bellingham. He went on to earn a master’s in counseling at Seattle Pacific University, then returned to Bellingham for an internship with Catholic Community Services. “I worked with kids with disabilities,” he says. “It influenced my life and career moving forward.” He completed a Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy at Florida State University, then took an academic assignment at the University of Louisville, implementing a positive family engagement strategy in the city’s child protection services. Todahl came to the UO in 1999. He directs a number of research projects, including a child abuse prevalence study. “We did a pilot study, asking direct questions to high school students age 16 and over in 12 Lane County classrooms,” he explains. “It was open to any student; only 5 percent said no.” House Bill 4112 never made it out of the Ways and Means Committee in the Oregon Legislature during the 2020 short session due to the Republican walkout, but Todahl says it has support from both sides, and he is optimistic on its eventual passage. In 2013, he was instrumental in launching 90by30, a campus/community partnership that aims to reduce child abuse in Lane County 90 percent by year 2030. One of its components is Roots of Empathy, a program that brings a neighborhood infant and parent into a grade school classroom every three weeks over a school year. Learn how you can help, or how you can get help, at Todahl is seen in the photo with family black lab Brutus, a fetching fool who will be 10 on April 1.