Why this matters

A new partnership is out of the starting gate in Tulsa Public Schools!

Called “Fostering Community Recruitment,” the idea is to keep abused and neglected foster kids in the same school, recruit more school-related families to foster kids entering custody, and engage volunteers to support kids and families.

A 23-year-old former foster youth for most of her life, Christine Hamby knows why this partnership matters.

She told her story of 10 years in state custody to more than 100 educators, schools volunteers, advocates for children, and DHS and TPS leaders.
And, Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham told Christine’s story, too.

Christine is in college now, but she has climbed high mountains to get there. She was taken into state custody at age 8 due to severe neglect, moved to more than 15 different homes and schools, parental rights terminated, adopted by an abusive family and later taken back into foster care, and spending the rest of her teen years as a foster kid.

It all adds up to few permanent connections, little support and encouragement during her young years.

She wants “people to understand how traumatic it can be for kids to have to move to different schools and have no strong connections.” It’s a feeling of a “fish-out-of-water.”

Here’s her story.

A+ News is On the Way!

Stay tuned for good news about a new collaboration bringing together Tulsa Public Schools personnel and foster home recruiters, along with the Department of Human Services!

There are about 1,500 kids in DHS care in Tulsa County and, of those who are school-age, more than 300 attend Tulsa Public Schools.

It is a challenge for abused and neglected kids to make new friends, learn academic and life skills, and earn a high school diploma if they are periodically moved to new schools, where they must re-settle, re-build stability, and make new friends.

It’s a challenge, too, because there’s a growing shortage of foster homes as more kids enter the state’s foster care system.

So, a new initiative is being born with the new school year. TPS parent facilitators and PTA representatives are organizing “fostering community recruitment drives” to increase the number of foster homes and build volunteers for support services such as tutoring, transportation, respite care and more – all in an effort to keep a child in custody in his/her home school.

The first meeting brings together tribal home recruiters, recruitment agencies which are contracted by DHS to identify new foster families/placements for kids, DHS and TPS leadership.

This is an A+ plan that’ll help turn foster kids into graduates and provide extra hands and help for those who are now foster families.

This idea is sure to make the grade. We’ll let you know more as the plan unfolds.

Legislators Dealing Dollars

Observations of the Oklahoma legislative session from Steve Lewis, former Speaker of the House and the Child Protection Coalition Advocacy Liaison, in his weekly Capitol News Update …

As this year’s session nears closing, Lewis notes that “there are no winners in this budget” due to a shortage of dollars and maneuvering among the two Chambers and the Governor.

“Most agencies took another big hit, the same as the past few years. Big losers were agencies that administer the Medicaid program providing healthcare services to poor people. Oklahoma Healthcare Authority will have to find a way to eat a $90 million hole in the Medicaid budget. That will likely mean a combination of cutting benefits and cutting provider fees.

“Same is true with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. On a smaller overall budget they have a Medicaid match deficit of $13.5 million plus other cuts. DHS also has state match needs for Medicaid services.

“DHS received $36 million to meet its obligation under the Pinnacle Plan, the child welfare lawsuit settlement and an additional $8 million. The most interesting feature of the budget was the so-called pay increase for selected state employees.

“The agreement includes SB 2131 that mandates the raises, but except for a few agencies, no money was appropriated to pay them. That means the agencies will have to eat the cost within their budget, cutting employees and/or the services they provide.”

Bills affecting child abuse victims filed as 2014 session is underway …

New bills filed at the Oklahoma Capitol impact foster parents, child abuse penalties, shelters and group homes, abuse investigations, and more.  The Coalition monitors bills and supports or opposes those affecting the protection system and victims.  Watch our site for news and be sure to sign up for Alerts.  We’ll keep you current on important legislation.

Coalition task force looks at removing barriers to recruiting foster homes

Recent reports:  Abuse victims statewide doubled in 3 years, ranking near the top per capital nationally, and Tulsa County’s numbers jumped 1/3rd in one year.

Coalition task force looks at removing barriers to recruiting foster homes and better assessments of hard-to-place abused kids new law limits where child sex trafficking victims can be…….

Trends by the numbers

Analyst Jan Figart talked about trends in data which could assist social service professionals in spotting problems early.

Tulsa’s Community Service Council gathers and tracks current data trends in various child protective services.

CSC analyst Jan Figart recently presented “High Risk Youth Dashboard” at a Child Protection Coalition meeting and noted that monitoring this data can identify trends, but added we are already “in a deep hole and are only digging a deeper one.”

Child abuse, teen births, poverty, and low education levels are key indicators. Figart said poverty and education are too big to tackle; child abuse and teen births are something we can improve.

Examples of the data are:

  • 1 in 7 Oklahomans are on food stamps.
  • The state ranks 9th in the country in confirmed child abuse. 8 of every 1,000 children in Tulsa County are victims of child abuse and/or neglect.
  • 13 percent of all births in Tulsa County are to a 19 year old or younger and 20 percent of these babies are the 2nd, 3rd or 4th child of the same teen. Oklahoma ranks 5th in the U.S. in the rate of teen births.
  • More than 60 percent of Tulsa County elementary school children participate in free lunch programs.

View the full PDF Report/Presentation

Christine Marsh, Family and Children’s Service, makes a point about the data while Caroline Abbott, Mental Health Association of Tulsa, and others listen.

Jan listens to discussion and questions.

More Evidence-Based Treatment for Tulsa’s Young Trauma Victims

Elizabeth Risch is based at OU Health Sciences Center, Norman, where she assesses and treats trauma- exposed children with sexual problems and trains/consults in child trauma treatment best practice models.

Roy Van Tassell introduces the trauma focused training model to therapeutic foster care professionals. A trauma specialist, he has participated in national and state learning collaborative trainings in this model.

A new 12-month Trauma Focused – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) training program launches this summer for therapists, supervisors and program directors of Therapeutic Foster Care agencies serving Tulsa area children and youth. Following this in-depth training, therapists will be eligible for the new TF-CBT certification and agencies will be responsible for sustaining the practice model.

TF-CBT is an evidence-based treatment model that targets children’s response to trauma, resulting in more stable emotions and improved behavior. Caregivers learn to deal with their emotions and how t0 support their children.

Faculty includes Roy Van Tassell, MS LPC, clinical supervisor for child abuse and trauma services at Tulsa’s Family & Children’s Services, and Elizabeth Risch, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The Child Protection Coalition is organizing in this training program, collaborating with Oklahoma DHS, Oklahoma Therapeutic Foster Care Association, Family & Children’s Services, and OU Center for Child Abuse and Neglect. Training for participants in this pilot project is free, funded by Tulsa private foundations.

For information, please contact the Coalition’s director, kristine@protectioncoalition.org

Representatives of Tulsa’s therapeutic foster care facilities attended an informational event outlining the 12-month trauma-focused training program.