A $13.3 million federal grant announced last week is great news for the Kansas University’s School of Social Welfare, as well as troubled foster children across the state.
The five-year grant is one of only six such grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the only one that went to a university. It is the largest single grant ever received by KU’s social welfare school.
KU will partner with the state’s four private foster care providers to create the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project, which will serve about 2,160 Kansas families. These families include children with severe mental health or behavioral problems, problems so severe that the families find it impossible to maintain those children in their homes.
A report released about a month ago indicated that the number of U.S. children in foster care had dropped by 8 percent in the last year. In Kansas, the number was about 9 percent lower. One of the reasons is that people who work with foster children are trying harder to provide the counseling and support that families need so that they are able to reunite with their children.
The KU-led project will focus on children whose behaviors make that reunion particularly difficult. They are the children whose mental health problems disrupt their “social, academic and emotional functioning,” Tom McDonald, KU professor of social welfare, explained in a press release. Those behaviors can include running away, setting fires or being aggressive to other family members, he said, and often result in children staying in foster care longer and perhaps having many placements.
The goal of KU’s grant project is to look at ways for professionals to intervene on behalf of these families. In-home therapy may help deal with children’s extreme behavior. Funds also will be available for medical care or day care that will make it easier for families to cope with their children’s special needs.
These are some of the toughest situations faced by foster care providers not only in Kansas, but across the nation. It’s great to see KU taking a leadership role in this area. The grant is a huge accomplishment for KU and its School of Social Welfare. Congratulations.