Last week, the Arnall Family Foundation announced a $1 million transportation innovation grant that seeks to improve foster care transportation in Oklahoma.
The grant aligns with Arnall Family Foundation’s mission to make transformative improvements to the systems serving at-risk children in Oklahoma. The foundation is a partner of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services.
The transportation innovation grant challenges child welfare agencies in the Oklahoma City metro area to create a pilot program that could make transportation to visitations, court hearings and other appointments easier for biological parents of kids in foster care. By doing so, the grant seeks to address transportation barriers that affect parents who are working toward reunification.
“We are looking for the most innovative solution to help parents with children in foster care who lack reliable transportation get to required services, medical appointments, court as well as visitation. What’s important is that the plan is not only sustainable, but also scalable to other vulnerable populations after this four-year pilot,” said Lindsay Laird, the child welfare program manager of the foundation in an email to The Imprint. “This program is particularly important because Oklahoma City does not have a robust public transit system which creates barriers for parents trying to get to services and visitation with their children.”
Visitations are critical to the process of reunifying foster children with their families. However, a 2014 study by the University of Oklahoma found that transportation was the largest obstacle keeping clients from receiving social services. Laird hopes that a grant like the transportation innovation grant can make reunification a faster process.
“We know that the more frequent visitations parents have with their children while they are in foster care, the more likely they are to reunify and do so in a timely fashion,” Laird said. “This is a piece of the puzzle to achieve timely permanency for children in foster care. We believe the lack of reliable transportation should not be a barrier to keeping parents from visitation with their children while they are in foster care.”
According to Laird, the city council and mayor’s office have been supportive of the grant.
To be eligible for the grant, nonprofit and for-profit entities must have an operating budget of at least 750,000, work in Oklahoma County, be willing and able to provide audited financial statements, and meet all applicable federal and state financial filings or reports. The foundation is currently accepting applications and encourages organizations to apply before the December 1 deadline.
Applying organizations must provide a plan for implementation and long-term goals for their envisioned pilot project.
Responses will be evaluated by child welfare and transportation experts, and Arnall Family Foundation staff. A winner will be chosen in March 2019, and funding will be granted on April 1, 2019.
The application can be found here.