By Taylor Klocke

Increasing Parent-Child Reunification Through Innovative Transportation Options

December 10, 2019

Earlier this year, CTAA and its partners – EMBARK and the Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA) – were awarded the Arnall Family Foundation’s Transportation Innovation Grant. The grant is focused on improving transportation for families in Oklahoma County who have children in the foster care system.

Earlier this year, CTAA and its partners – EMBARK and the Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA) – were awarded the Arnall Family Foundation’s Transportation Innovation Grant. The grant is focused on improving transportation for families in Oklahoma County who have children in the foster care system.

Unique for Each Participant

The CTAA-led team has been working with its partners to develop a pilot program that will increase parent-child reunifications in Oklahoma County through innovative transportation delivery. More information on the history of this grant can be found at the bottom of this post. Since the April announcement, EMBARK (the local transportation provider in Oklahoma County) has hired a mobility manager who works directly with Oklahoma Department of Human Services caseworks and participants to develop a transportation plan that is unique for each participant. These individualized transportation plans accommodate child visitation, scheduled classes and therapy sessions, and court hearings. Along with the new staff addition, EMBARK is working on developing and will be providing, free trips on its fixed-route system to reward participants who meet monthly progress benchmarks. Not only will fixed-route trips be provided, EMBARK is partnering with a local taxi company and TNCs to offer on-demand rides when necessary and appropriate.

Technology

As a part of the pilot program, CTAA and its partners have acquired the services of Ride Health. Ride Health is a transportation technology provider that has created a custom app, allowing for the streamlined scheduling of trips. This app can be accessed on participants’ mobile device, as well as through the mobility manager’s computer. This allows the mobility manager and the participant to work together in order to schedule rides that work with their unique schedule. The trips that are being scheduled are pre-planned based on the participants’ court-mandated appointments, as well as unanticipated trips that fulfill the parents’ DHS-required services.

Sensitivity to Trauma

At this program’s inception, all of the partners recognized that providing mobility to biological parents separated from their children in Oklahoma County will require specific driver training to ensure sensitivity to trauma and the types of situations that have led these individuals to be clients in the program. OTA has developed, tested and recently began deploying this training to all providers interested in participating in the project. Transit professionals have been learning how to recognize, respond to, communicate with and when necessary, provide appropriate assistance to their passengers and others who have experienced traumatic events. Drivers have been trained to perceive when passengers may need additional protection or support. Training has involved awareness, sensitivity, assistance and reporting. Kary Hughes, with the Southwest Transit Association, recently kicked-off this training at OTA’s 2019 Annual Meeting.

Limited Launch Phase

As of December 2019, the team has begun the limited launch phase of this project. This includes on-boarding participants and learning what can be adjusted or improved for future, permanent service. The service provided for these participants by EMBARK is called, “TIG Program.” This program is not open to public participation due to the nature of its trips and the importance of privacy.

Background on the Grant

In August 2018, the Arnall Family Foundation, in partnership with Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced the Transportation Innovation Grant. The winning organization would have four years and $1 million to develop a pilot program for improving transportation for parents in Oklahoma County who have had their children removed and are working toward reunification. The pilot will include evaluation to measure how rates and time to reunification are impacted for those participating in the program.

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The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.