A five-year, $13.3 million grant will help Kansas University and four private partners with the goal of reunifying foster children with their birth families.
The largest grant in the history of KU’s School of Social Welfare is designed to serve 2,160 Kansas families of children with the most severe mental health and behavioral problems.
The grant will establish the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project, which will enable the four private nonprofit providers of family reintegration services and foster care services in the state to allocate new resources and to hire new staff.
“It’s a good deal for child welfare in the state of Kansas,” said Tom McDonald, a principal investigator of the grant and a professor of social welfare. “All those agencies are under the gun when it comes to resources. We know how the recession has affected these sorts of things.”
The nonprofits — Youthville, TFI Family Services Inc., KVC Behavioral HealthCare Kansas Inc. and St. Francis Community Services — could hire six new employees each to work with families, McDonald said.
And, in addition, they’ll receive money to help provide families with therapeutic support and physical needs, McDonald said. In many cases, the children involved in the project pose a danger to themselves and to others — they could be running away, setting fires, or being aggressive.
Linda Auld, director of business development for Youthville, will be helping the Wichita-area agency oversee its part of the grant. She said the agency would focus on providing therapy and parental guidance counseling for families soon after the initial separation, something that’s not done as much now.
The grant should help bring about positive change for some of the state’s most challenging foster children, she said.
“It’s better for families, it’s better for the kids and it’s better for the community,” Auld said.
At KU, researchers will study the methods used to bring about reunification and measure how effective the efforts were — and identify unique strategies that can be applied elsewhere.
The federal department of Health and Human Services awarded six grants nationwide, and KU was the only grant received by a university.
“It’s a big grant for our school, but I’m very pleased at the impact it will have for children in Kansas,” McDonald said.