An innovative partnership begun last year between Family & Children’s Services and Oklahoma Department of Human Services is helping foster children with a unique set of needs that can lead to them falling through the cracks.

Last month, that partnership, Tulsa County Cross System Youth Project, graduated its first five students.

“Basically, these are the children the system or systems have trouble keeping sheltered, either in group homes or in foster care,” said Whitney Downie, F&CS chief program officer of Children’s Mental Health and Family Support.

Each was in the program for about a year, Downie said. They learn independent living skills, work toward their GED, develop personal skills, get treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues, and develop job skills.

Children in the program, of which there are 40, have the most advanced needs of children in OKDHS custody and the Tulsa County juvenile justice system. Many have been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Many struggle to cope with substance abuse and exhibit disruptive behavior at school, which leads to suspensions. They also have academic issues and tend to engage in delinquency.

Before the partnership, the justice system dealt with those issues alone, and the foster care system managed issues related to keeping the children placed in foster or group homes. There was no go-between to help unite the two and provide the kids needed access to mental health care, education, and medical services.

That led to the project’s birth, with Family & Children’s Services acting as a net catching the children who fall between the two agencies’ grasps.

“This really is about providing better services to kids who need a higher level of care than the system has provided previously,” Downie said. “Ideally, once they’ve been through the program, they’re less likely to be incarcerated, become addicted to drugs or suffer from mental illnesses later in life.”

Last month’s graduation was attended by representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, the Tulsa County Child Protection Coalition, the Community Service Council, and the children’s foster families and supporters.

 

About Family & Children’s Services

For 90 years, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.

Family & Children’s Services is a partner agency of the Tulsa Area United Way. F&CS is also a member of the following national organizations: Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. F&CS is certified with distinction as a community mental health center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. F&CS is also certified with distinction as a Community Mental Health Center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Additionally, F&CS is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as an Outpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program and certified with distinction as a Gambling Treatment Program.