In the Spokane region, every year nearly 700 children are removed from their homes and placed in the care of friends, relatives, or the foster care system. The only opportunity these kids have to see their parent(s) is during scheduled visitation times at visitation centers like the Salvation Army Visitation Center in Spokane. Unfortunately, some visitation providers report that 40% of all scheduled visitations are cancelled. The high rate of cancellations and no shows to visitation times is not only fiscally costly, but most significantly they directly affect the parent-child relationship and the rate and timeliness of unification of the family. The American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the necessity of ensuring that children have frequent visits with parent(s) to prevent stretching and damaging the parent-child relationship that takes place when children are deprived of uninterrupted, day-to-day relationships with their parent(s).
Everyone has been frustrated by the rate of no shows and cancellations. Through our work with the Family Impact Network (FIN) we partnered with the Salvation Army to provide ride services at no cost to parents via Uber. The goal was to collect data that tested our hypothesis that providing individualized transportation to and from scheduled visitations would reduce the rate of no shows and cancellations. What initially was intended to be a three-month trial spanned a six-month period; during this time a total of 427 rides were provided to 25 voluntarily participating parents. At the end of the pilot program data showed that as more parents accepted Uber rides there was a decrease in the percentage of missed or cancelled appointments. Parents within the program cited the rides as a significant help in balancing the coordination of health appointments, meetings for treatment, job interviews, and visitations with their child; during the course of the program one parent interviewed was able to transition to home visits. We can only imagine the heartbreaking choice some of these parents are faced with in choosing between child visitation or a health appointment or job interview. If we were able to re-program dollars that were spent on missed visits to increase transportation options, that would be a win for everyone.
Empire Health Foundation is proud to have subsidize this pilot that is demonstrating an innovative approach to solving a pressing need for our most vulnerable families.