Grant seeks transportation innovations to benefit foster children
The Arnall Family Foundation is asking the nonprofit community to put its thinking cap on.
The foundation on Thursday announced a $1 million grant with the goal of developing innovative transportation solutions for biological parents whose children are in foster care.
A lack of reliable transportation is an obstacle to overcoming challenges life throws at many residents of central Oklahoma, said Sue Ann Arnall, founder and president of the foundation.
While the competition to develop a response is focused on foster children, one goal is to bring forth ideas that could "be replicated to benefit other vulnerable populations, including those affected by the criminal justice system," she said.
Transportation needs have been identified by the United Way of Central Oklahoma as among the top three obstacles facing clients of the organization's partner agencies, Arnall said.
"Over the next four months," she said, "we're asking nonprofits, for-profits, transportation experts and others to put their heads together to come up with an innovative, sustainable program that will help parents who have children in foster care get to services, court, medical appointments and visitation."
The effort is concentrated specifically on assisting more than 1,000 biological parents in Oklahoma County who have children in foster care and are working toward reunification, the foundation said.
The announcement at City Hall was attended by about 50 people, many representing nonprofits, and included remarks by Mayor David Holt.
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The foundation's timeline includes an informational meeting at United Way offices on Aug. 23.
Letters of intent are due Dec. 1, finalists will be selected Dec. 17, and grant applications are due Feb. 1. The winner is to be announced March 11.
The grant is to be used over four years to develop a pilot program. Selection criteria include whether proposals are sustainable and can be expanded.
Statistics distributed by the foundation show neglect is the No. 1 cause children are taken into state custody. Parents' and guardians' drug abuse is No. 2.
Alcohol abuse, abandonment, imprisonment and sexual abuse are cited significantly less often, but remain among reasons children are placed in foster homes.
The Arnall Family Foundation was founded in 2015.
Challenges it has taken on include serving families with children on the autism spectrum, preventing child abuse and neglect through parental visitation and education, and supporting college students as they transition out of foster care.
Arnall's commitment runs deep, Holt said.
"You put your resources into it and I think everybody appreciates that — but it is so apparent that you don't just write checks," the mayor said in thanking Arnall.
"You dig in personally with your time and your passion," he said, "and I can tell how much that means to everybody here."
"When the state brings children into the foster care system, we believe they become our responsibility and we should do everything possible to improve their lives," Arnall said.
"These are our children, our community's children."