Governor Steve Beshear has announced the launch of a new collaboration between state agencies, universities and nonprofits to improve the behavioral health and treatment of children in the child welfare system.
Project SafeSpace is designed to assess trauma that may have been experienced by children in out-of-home care and seek treatments that best meet the children's mental and behavioral health needs. Nearly 7,200 children are in out-of-home care in Kentucky.
The new project is a partnership among the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), the University of Louisville (UofL) along with several other universities, and governmental and nonprofit agencies.
"For many children in foster care, the social and emotional ordeal of displacement after being abused or neglected by a loved one is life-shattering," Gov. Beshear said. "The treatment provided through this grant will give children a new hope for healing. This type of collaboration is essential to ensure our foster children have the opportunity to become productive members of our communities."
Access to behavioral health services for Kentucky children is limited, particularly in rural areas, and children in out-of-home care are not consistently screened for behavioral health needs, said CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes.
While finding permanency for children in foster care is a top priority, the cabinet's focus is also on the overall well-being of those children, she said.
"Children in foster care are more likely to have significant mental health concerns that affect their development," Secretary Haynes said. "This grant has a special emphasis on the adoption and pre-adoption population, so children who find their "forever families' will also have a lifetime of well-being."
UofL's Kent School of Social Work will lead the project, oversee the partners' collaboration and evaluate the initiative.
"Project SafeSpace will allow us to make a real difference for children and families served by the child welfare system because of the focus on assessing what they really need and providing proven services to help them flourish," said Crystal Collins-Camargo, UofL associate professor of social work and the project leader. "The partnership forged by the university and the child welfare and behavioral health systems brings the right people to the table to tackle the complex needs of these vulnerable children through a true sense of collaboration."
Partnering agencies for Project SafeSpace include:
University of Louisville;
CHFS Department for Community Based Services;
CHFS Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities;
CHFS Department for Medicaid Services;
Eastern Kentucky University;
University of Kentucky;
Children's Alliance of Kentucky;
Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children;
Youth Leadership Council; and
Kentucky Youth M.O.V.E.
The project is funded through a $2.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth and Families. The five-year grant period began in October. The first year's allotment is $425,000, with $500,000 annually for the next four years.
The project will begin in two pilot regions before being implemented throughout the rest of the Commonwealth.