New Policy Could Jeopardize Funding For Foster Children

Sunday, January 17th 2016, 10:41 pm
By: News 9

A new proposed policy could eliminate special services for children in foster care in Oklahoma.

Many services would fall under the umbrella of the policy, including counseling for some of the state’s most vulnerable children.

"Once you become fully aware of the problem and fully aware of what these kids are going through, you can't not support it,” Cindy Lee, Halo Project director, said. “So we just tell stories."

And this one is Katy's.

"We just fell in love with her right away,” Laura Arbetello said.

Katy was born prematurely and was in and out of hospitals and foster care the first year of her life. Laura Arbetello and her husband Michael took little Katy in when she just 13 months old and jumped at the chance to adopt her.

"She didn't have a stable foundation. Everything was uncertain, unstable,” Laura Arbetello said. “ So her behavior started showing that."

The Arbetellos didn't know what to do. They went to the Internet for help from other foster and adoptive parents and were referred to the Halo Project. The program is 10 weeks of intensive outpatient therapy for foster and adopted children.

"Basically what we're seeing is a lot of really young kids with complex developmental trauma which means that they are having all kinds of behavioral issues, emotional issues,” Lee said. "It's neglect. It's physical abuse. It's sexual abuse."

Funding for the project comes from private donors as well as the state, but soon Medicaid may not cover the costs and funding will be cut by 35 to 45 percent.

"We shouldn't have to ask for private dollars to serve our most vulnerable population,” Lee said.

"I think it's awful,” Arbetello said.  "Because we've seen what it can do, and how it can work."

Katy finished therapy last week.

"She is a totally different kid than she was before we started. Completely different,”  Arbetello said.  "She went from biting, hitting, scratching, kicking, choking."

Now, she behaves like a different child.

"She's loving. She's compassionate, Arbetello said. ”She has empathy now."

Fruits of intervention, something every child in the system should have the opportunity to experience.

"Every one of them is different, and they don't have a voice,” Lee said.

One this family hopes is not taken away.

Forty-four families have gone through Halo since it was established in September 2013. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) may enforce a policy that would eliminate licensed behavioral health professionals in independent practice from billing Medicaid for the services they provide. This includes all counselors in private practice and group practice. 

Click here to learn more about the Halo Project.

Click here to learn more about the proposed policy.