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KVC Helps Safely Reunite Hundreds of Kansas Families After Foster Care

Family reunification

Children grow best in families — specifically their own birth families whenever possible. But sometimes it’s not safe for a child to remain at home with their family due to abuse, neglect or other family challenges. When a court decides to temporarily remove a child from his or her home, KVC Kansas works with the child’s family in order to resolve conflicts or disruptions and learn healthy skills so the child can safely return home.

Due to a unique and successful public/private partnership, KVC Kansas provides services for more than half of all children and families served by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Through this partnership, KVC safely reunified 876 children with their 573 birth families last year (FY15). Each of these reunifications represents a tremendous amount of work from the families as well as work from KVC staff and community partners. With our guiding values such as “What would you want for your own child?” and “Children can’t wait,” KVC leads the state in ensuring that children are safely reintegrated back into their homes within 12 months when possible.

In order to safely reunite families and prevent them from re-entering the child welfare system, a KVC case manager coordinates a variety of services designed to meet the unique needs of each family.

The process begins with a case planning meeting using KVC’s Safe & Connected model. This approach brings together all of the key stakeholders to review facts, think critically, and develop a case plan. The case plan is the foundation or roadmap that shows what the goal is (typically, reintegration) and how we plan to get there. KVC then provides services which can be thought of in three broad categories: resource and referral, behavioral health treatment, and parent support and training.

RESOURCE & REFERRAL

Families involved in the child welfare system often have challenges related to income, poverty, transportation or employment. One of the first things we do is connect the family to resources in the community. This might mean helping the family apply for affordable housing and child care, directing them to state-provided food or cash assistance, making sure they are receiving any agreed child support, connecting them to educational opportunities and legal assistance, and helping them on their path toward employment. Our goal is to make sure that the family has the resources they need.

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH TREATMENT

Families involved in the child welfare system often have mental/behavioral healthcare needs or substance abuse issues. Sometimes the parents have had adverse childhood experiences themselves, leading to behavioral health issues in adulthood. Sometimes the children and teenagers who have experienced an unsafe home environment struggle with depression, anxiety, thoughts of self-harm and feelings of violence. Sometimes everyone in the family has experienced traumatic stress and needs support to reach a brighter tomorrow.

KVC provides therapy to children and adolescents through our Outpatient Services department. Our highly-trained, caring therapists work with children and families in their homes whenever possible, or at a KVC office. Typically youth receive therapy from KVC and adults receive treatment from community mental health centers, although KVC occasionally provides therapy to all members of the family.

KVC specializes in providing trauma-informed mental health services using the Trauma Systems Therapy (TST) evidenced-based model. (Learn more about this and the NYU/KVC Midwest Trauma Training Center.) KVC has infused its entire system and all staff with trauma-informed care training so that everyone who interacts with a child or family operates from the same understanding.

PARENT SUPPORT AND TRAINING

In addition to therapy, many families need assistance improving their parenting strategies so that the children can remain safely in the home. Parent Management Training (PMT) is an evidence-based skill-building approach that KVC uses to help children and families with the daily struggles of parenting and family life.  PMT is designed to work with families to improve child behaviors and parents’ use of effective parenting strategies.

Beyond Reunification

By providing assistance in the three areas mentioned above, KVC is able to help safely reunify the majority of families whose children enter care.

But KVC’s work doesn’t end when a child safely reunifies with his or her family. We provide aftercare services for up to one year after a family reunification or and adoption. Aftercare includes in-home therapy and continuing to connect families with resources as needed. At KVC, 92% of children who enter foster care and return home or are adopted will remain there. This equates to a 8% reentry rate which is one of the lowest rates in the nation.

KVC is proud to play a role in strengthening Kansas families and being there during their time of crisis. We applaud the hardworking families that have achieved reunification or are working toward it now. Learn more about our reintegration services including success story videos.