Sometimes, it takes a village.

Family & Children’s Services began last month to build villages, so to speak, for a very specific group of children in crisis. The agency’s new Systems of Care Wraparound program helps kids ages 0-12 who have suffered abuse or other traumas and have a mental health or co-occurring disorder.

Through the Systems of Care, family support providers and care coordinators build highly-coordinated teams that help devise and execute plans to meet the needs of participating children and their often overwhelmed families. Teams include both formal supports (therapists, educators and other service providers) and informal allies (extended family members, neighbors and others not professionally involved with the family).

Children served through the Systems of Care are at risk of being put in foster care or another out-of-home placement. But research reveals that kids kept in their homes are less likely to use drugs, experience homelessness or be incarcerated than children who are separated from their families. 

“Working to make the home environment safe and appropriate for a child is almost always better than removing a child from his family,” said Crystal Houck, program director of the Family & Children’s Services Systems of Care. “We work to calm family chaos, stabilize the child’s mental illness and provide tools and resources to preserve the family unit. Our overarching goal is to keep the child in his home environment.”

Systems of Care teams work with children and families to devise individualized strategies for healthy function in the home, at school and in the community at large. Strategies might include having a member of the team accompany and advocate for parents at meetings with school officials or provide respite to a caregiver. Or they might not. Children and their caregivers drive and guide the decisions on care and support they receive.

Family support providers and care coordinators also help families link to community resources that provide assistance with food, medical care and a range of other needs. Referrals to and coordination of individual, family or group therapy, child psychiatry and pharmacy services are also important components that can help set the children in the Systems of Care on the path to recovery. 

Family & Children’s Services operates the new Systems of Care in collaboration with Wraparound Tulsa and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The partnership marks the first time wraparound services have been tailored to families of children impacted by trauma.