Project SafeSpace, announced Nov. 25 by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, is designed to assess trauma experienced by children in out-of-home care and to seek treatments that will best meet their needs. Nearly 7,200 children are in out-of-home care in Kentucky.
“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.”
Kent School will lead the project, oversee the partners’ collaboration and evaluate the initiative.
Besides UofL, Project SafeSpace partners include several branches of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children, Youth and Families is funding the project through a five-year, $2.5 million grant. The project will begin in two pilot regions before going statewide.
“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,” 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, CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said in the announcement. While finding permanency for children in foster care is a top priority, Haynes said the cabinet’s focus also is on the children’s overall well-being.