Indian Health Care Resource Center (IHCRC) is a community response to the funding and healthcare disparities of Tulsa’s urban Indian community. Almost 40 years after inception, IHCRC remains dedicated to providing quality, comprehensive healthcare to Tulsa area Indian people in a culturally sensitive manner that promotes good health, well-being, and harmony. From a part-time physician in 1977 to today’s state-of-the-art facility, IHCRC continues to positively impact the health of Tulsa’s Native community.

During a recent conversation with Dr. Rachele Floyd, IHCRC Director of Behavioral Health, CPC staff learned about health challenges our Native population faces, as well as why it is important to leadership of IHCRC to be part of local child welfare discussions. This is what she shared.

CPC: What are the challenges you face within the child welfare system in Tulsa?

One of the biggest challenges we face is the number of professionals involved in a case.  Children we see often have a DHS worker, Indian Child Welfare worker, CASA, foster parent, biological parent, therapist, psychiatrist, etc.  It is often difficult to coordinate care for children when there are so many systems involved, and to ensure that the child remains the focus.  Just obtaining the right paperwork we need to begin providing treatment can be a daunting task, and sometimes add unneeded waiting time before we can get the child scheduled with a therapist.  Often it is difficult just to figure out who has legal custody of the child, so we can ensure to get the proper consents signed.  We are so blessed to have our Systems of Care (SOC) program, which often helps get everyone on board and working together.  However, if this feels difficult for us professionals to juggle and get straight, I can’t imagine what it’s like for the child.

CPC: What do you feel are the positive impacts you make on kids’ lives in our community?

Children are a huge priority at IHCRC, with every clinic within our facility working hard to ensure that quality care is provided to our most vulnerable tribal members.  Children at our clinic can see a pediatrician, psychiatrist, optometrist, dentist, mental health counselor, and dietitian all under the same roof!  We provide psychological testing so that children with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other issues are diagnosed accurately and receive appropriate treatment.  Our mental health staff are trained in various evidence based treatments, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and others.  Behavioral Health services are provided for individuals and families throughout the lifespan, so that we can impact the entire system rather than just the individual.  Our SOC team works closely with schools to get children placed on IEPs and 504 plans, and keep children in school.  Our SOC team also works closely with mental health professionals and the family to keep at risk kids out of hospitals and at home with their families.  As well as providing treatment, our facility has been granted funding through the Indian Health Service to provide prevention programming to Native American youth.  We provide suicide, drug use, and domestic violence prevention in 5 area schools, as well as providing cultural activities for Native children throughout the year.

CPC: What is the one thing you would like the public to know about the work you do?

We pride ourselves in being the provider of choice for many Native Americans in the Tulsa area, regardless of whether they have a payer source or not.  Our clients come from all walks of life, from homeless individuals to top executives.  All services we provide are at no cost to the individual.

CPC: Why do you feel it is important for your agency to be involved in the Child Protection Coalition?

Native American youth are at a higher risk of developing substance use problems, being depressed, and committing suicide than any other ethnic group.  The risk factors for developing mental health and substance abuse problems often are a result of childhood experiences, including abuse and neglect.  Many Native parents have difficulty knowing how to parent, due to a history of families being broken up by the federal government and children being sent to boarding schools far away from their parents, their homes, and everything they know.  When there are problems in the home, evidence has shown that Native children are more frequently removed from the home than non-Native children.  Native American children are disproportionately represented in foster care, with the number of available Native foster homes being far below that of the number of children needing homes.  Due to these factors, IHCRC believes that it is important that a Native voice be heard whenever issues of child protection are being discussed.  We believe that as an agency, we have the unique opportunity of being both the voice of many urban Native Americans who have been caught up in the child welfare system, and also a part of the healing process for our clients, providing mental health and other services to those impacted by poverty, trauma, the breakup of the family, etc.

To learn more about Indian Health Care Resource Center, the work they do, and ways you can help them to further their mission visit their website. 

IHCRC is located at 550 S Peoria in Tulsa

IHCRC is located at 550 S Peoria in Tulsa, OK

The mission of the Child Abuse Network (CAN) is to provide collaborative intervention services to child abuse victims, so that they are encouraged to embrace a future driven by hope. CAN serves as the coordinator for the multiple agencies that interact with children of reported child abuse. The result is a collaborative and non-duplicated inter-agency approach to investigate abuse and protect children in crisis.

A recent conversation between Child Protection Coalition staff and Barbara Findeiss, CAN’s Executive Director, provided further insight regarding why the agency exists and the difference they make in our community. Here is what she shared.

CPC: What are the challenges you face within the child welfare system in Tulsa?

As part of Tulsa County’s child abuse response system, CAN’s primary challenge is in serving the high volume of children in need of CAN’s services.

CPC: What do you feel are the positive impacts you make on kids’ lives in our community?

CAN helps to reduce the trauma that a child abuse investigation can pose for a child. By connecting with children through a child-focused environment where they feel safe enough to share experiences, CAN is able to help children begin to understand that they matter and that they are not alone. CAN’s brief time with a child is intentionally focused on helping them begin the transition from hurt to healing.

CPC: What is the one thing you would like the public to know about the work you do?

Although we may see “sad” things at CAN, it is a positive and uplifting place for children as well as protecting family members and staff. In one appointment, the negative impact of abuse can transform into relief and hope. CAN provides the possibilities of new beginnings.

CPC: Why do you feel it is important for your agency to be involved in the Child Protection Coalition?

CAN’s philosophy statement sums it up:  Child abuse damages our community’s most vulnerable citizens, and often has generational implications. In the context of violence, child abuse is a public health problem that presents complex social and moral dilemmas concerning its cause, effect and remedy. Addressing child abuse requires a comprehensive plan with multiple, coordinated strategies.

To learn more about CAN and how you can help the agency accomplish their mission, visit their website today.

CAN Team Representatives (Executive Director Barbara Findeiss - front row, center)

CAN Team Representatives (Executive Director Barbara Findeiss – front row, center)

The Child Protection Coalition welcomes new Executive Director, Nellie Kelly! Kelly joined the CPC team on October 24, 2016.

Kelly has 14 years of experience serving Tulsa nonprofits, including the American Red Cross, American Heart Association and Transitional Living Centers of Oklahoma. Before coming to the Coalition, she worked as marketing director and waiting child coordinator for Dillon International, a nonprofit international adoption agency.

Kelly’s interest in helping children and families began in 1999 when, while working as a reporter at the Tulsa World, she became a foster parent for the Department of Human Services. She continued fostering until the fall of 2015, when her fourth adoption was finalized.

Kelly is committed to working with community partners so that abused and neglected children receive the protection, justice and healing they deserve.

Read Kelly’s introduction letter to Coalition members and friends by CLICKING HERE.

In an effort to aid in the support of foster care and kinship families in the Tulsa County area, the Child Protection Coalition hosted a FREE conference on September 24, 2016. This collaborative effort was led by a Child Protection Coalition Foster Care Support Committee comprised of representatives from Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Family & Children’s Services, the National Resource Center for Youth Services, the Parent Child Center of Tulsa, and Zero To Three (Tulsa County Safe Babies Court Team). The conference was underwritten by a Tulsa Area United Way Community Collaborations Grant. The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Chan Hellman of the University of Oklahoma, speaking on “The Science and Power of Hope.” Foster care and kinship parents chose to attend a variety of educational sessions, as well as network and learn from local service providers.

“Collaborative partnerships among child welfare stakeholders are invaluable to supporting the foster care and kinship parents in our community,” said Child Protection Coalition Executive Director Kristine D. Bridges, “We are grateful to the Tulsa Area United Way for their critical support of this important collaborative initiative benefiting those who care for the most vulnerable children in Tulsa county.”

Read coverage of the conference in Tulsa Business & Legal News by CLICKING HERE.

“The Department of Human Services is making steady progress in improving our foster care system in Oklahoma, and we are committed to building on this momentum in the additional time we have been granted to continue this important work. In the days, weeks and months ahead, DHS will persist in its efforts to ensure the system is consistently providing the level of support kids need and deserve while they are in state care.

Caring for our state’s most vulnerable children is a moral, social and legal imperative that has its greatest potential when DHS partners with communities to develop and implement the most promising solutions to the causes and effects of abuse and neglect.

We are so grateful to the thousands of Oklahomans who have opened their homes and their hearts to become foster and adoptive families to the children we serve. We could not do this work without the love and support of these families.

There is yet more opportunity for Oklahomans to pitch in, as our greatest need remains to secure more homes for children with medical needs and developmental disabilities. Sadly, these are the children occupying emergency shelters and other facilities because there are not enough families for them.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire Tulsa World opinion piece, published on September 10, 2016.

The expert monitors overseeing implementation of the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Pinnacle Plan to improve Oklahoma’s foster care system have agreed to a joint request of the department and counsel to the children to extend the timeline to fully implement the agency’s reform efforts.
In 2012, DHS settled a class-action lawsuit filed against its foster care system and agreed to make improvements in targeted areas within that system. The settlement agreement established an ambitious five-year plan  to improve performance in critical areas such as reducing the use of emergency shelters for young children, increasing the numbers of foster families, increasing the numbers of caseworkers, reducing caseworker workloads, and reducing the rate of maltreatment (abuse and neglect) in care.
The co-neutrals, a group of three child welfare experts, will continue to monitor the department’s progress, provide it with technical assistance, and require additional specific action‎ steps where necessary.

DHS Director Ed Lake says the settlement agreement represents a unique approach to achieving system reform.

“An effort like this has never been tried anywhere. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the timelines and initiatives laid out four years ago in the Pinnacle Plan were overly optimistic given the challenges we faced. Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made and we are seeing the benefits of the plan’s scope.

“The state of Oklahoma has invested more than $150 million into funding reforms since the beginning of the Pinnacle Plan,” said Lake. “The increased funding has allowed our agency to add more than 800 new case workers and supervisors to the child welfare work force, reduce workloads and increase their salaries; recruit and approve more than 3,000 new foster families and increase their reimbursement rates; and, significantly reduce the use of emergency shelters for kids. Despite our progress, however, we are going to need more time to reach and sustain all of our goals.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire news release, posted on September 6, 2016.

The driveway onto the property of Sand Springs Home is lined with mature trees, and in the summer is green as far as the eye can see. It has the feel of driving into a park or resort. A visitor will see pristine grounds, houses, and a huge activity center. At once, a feeling of calm is palpable. Social Worker Courtney Noah calls it, “The most wonderful place in the world to work.”

Recently, CPC staff received a tour of the Sand Springs Children’s Home and learned the history of the charity. Staff spoke with Executive Director, Jason Charles, about the home and his role. Here is what he shared:

CPC: What are the challenges you face within the child welfare system in Tulsa?

One of our challenges is public knowledge and support.  Sand Springs Home is funded by the Charles Page Trust, so we have not traditionally done fund raising or public awareness activities.  We need more people in the area to know about our services and how they can get involved.  This would help increase our support and volunteer base, as well as help people in the community know the types of kids/families that we serve so that they will refer them to us.

CPC: What do you feel are the positive impacts you make on kids’ lives in our community?

Sand Springs Home operates 2 charities.  Sand Springs Children’s Home accepts children who are in the foster care system in Oklahoma.  We focus mostly on teenagers and sibling groups.  We provide long term care for kids in a family setting.  We have 2 homes on campus which can house 8-10 kids each.  Sand Springs Home builds an individual plan for each child and works to meet their unique needs.  All of the children here attend public school and are encouraged to be involved in extra-curricular activities.  Our goal is to provide a home that allows kids to have a sense of normalcy and involvement in their school and community.  We also have apartments on campus for youth who have completed high school and need continued support.  At this time, we have 10 youth in college in our Independent Living program.

Our other charity is the Charles Page Family Village.  This is a housing and support program for single mothers and their children.  We have 108 duplex-style houses for families on our property.  Many of these families are homeless prior to coming to our program.  Length of stay in the Family Village varies depending on the needs of the family.  Some mothers can stay until their youngest child graduates from high school.  While families are here, they have access to our Activity Center, which provides after school programming for school aged children.

CPC: What is the one thing you would like the public to know about the work you do?

That we serve kids in the DHS foster system at no charge to the state.  Our contract is a no-pay contract, so the services we provide are entirely privately funded.

CPC: Why do you feel it is important for your agency to be involved in the Child Protection Coalition?

We have enjoyed being a part of the Child Protection Coalition.  We have formed positive relationships with other agencies in our community and we are more involved and aware of issues related to the child care system because of our involvement.

To learn more about this amazing organization and the history behind Charles Page’s vision for children and the Sand Springs community, visit the Sand Springs Home website:

The Sand Springs Home Activity Center includes a game room, full gym, racquetball court, movie theater, dining room, and study hall.  Staff at the SSHAC lead kids in activities promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and physical health.

The Sand Springs Home Activity Center includes a game room, full gym, racquetball court, movie theater, dining room, and study hall. Staff at the SSHAC lead kids in activities promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and physical health.

DHS News release, August 3, 2016
DHS announces budget cuts for state fiscal year 2017

Director Ed Lake says agency will seek supplemental funding.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, facing a more than $100 million shortfall in its current fiscal year budget, announced $45 million in reductions the agency is beginning to make. DHS warned that supplemental funding will be needed early in the next calendar year for the agency to make it through the fiscal year without serious consequences.

“We have been upfront with legislative leaders all year long about the DHS budget, our increasing costs, and the limitations we face when trying to make reductions,” said DHS Director Ed Lake.  “It is fiscally impossible to reduce $100 million out of our budget without putting thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans at risk.”

At the end of the legislative session, Lake said there was an agreement and expectation by legislative leaders that DHS would not make cuts to Medicaid programs that provide home-based care to older Oklahomans and persons with disabilities; however, there was also an expectation that DHS request supplemental funding to help bridge the significant budget gap that would result.  Lake said even with the $45 million in budget reductions, by Spring of 2017 the agency may not have the ability to make payroll or pay contractors that provide direct care to the thousands of Oklahomans the agency serves.

Read the entire OKDHS News Release by CLICKING HERE!

“When I arrived at the Laura Dester Shelter for an assignment Wednesday, I met three brothers, ages 10, 11 and 12, who had just arrived at the shelter the night before. They wanted more than anything for me to dance with them, take their picture and play on my iPhone.

The Tulsa shelter for abused and neglected children is expected to close around January. When I asked the boys what they liked about the shelter, the middle brother told me: ‘They have fun places here and Xbox. This place is happy.’

‘This is like heaven for them,’ said Phyllis Williams, a direct care specialist at Laura Dester Shelter. ‘It’s a safe place.'”

Read the entire Tulsa World article by clicking here – published July 17, 2016.

“In March, staffers almost shut the doors of the Laura Dester Shelter with nearly all foster children placed in a home or group setting. Then, another wave of children and teens arrived.

It is inevitable the Tulsa shelter for abused and neglected children will close. It’s part of a 2012 federal settlement agreement and an integral part of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ child-welfare improvement effort, called the Pinnacle Plan.

While there is no concrete deadline, officials say it likely will be about January before the shelter is shuttered. On Wednesday, 27 children and youth were in the shelter.

‘We won’t close until we find a home for every child. Not just finding any place or sticking kids anywhere, but really finding the right place for them,’ said the shelter’s assistant director, Bill Waller. ‘We are literally the last safety net for children taken into custody.’

Still, plans are rolling forward. Earlier this week, DHS held an open house for three prospective partners, which all work with children and youth: A for-profit group home, a nonprofit group home and a nonprofit program providing mental health services.”

Read the entire Tulsa World article by clicking here – published on July 14, 2016.