Human services connection in schools brings HOPE for Oklahoma students and families
Each day in Oklahoma, hundreds of thousands of young minds walk through the doors of their local schools on a mission to grow and learn in the company of friends and teachers. Many of these young minds are primed and ready for their day of learning with a good night’s rest, full stomachs and a strong support network of family and friends to help guide them as they depart from school each afternoon.
For some of these students, however, out-of-the-classroom obstacles negatively impact their abilities to learn in the classroom. For these children, school might not just be a place of study, but is instead a place of respite and a continuation of each child’s support network. OKDHS hopes to partner and collaborate with additional school districts across the state through the School-Based Services Program to create pathways to HOPE for these children and their families.
The School-Based Services Program is a critical collaborative partnership between OKDHS and local school districts to help the agency serve children and families right where they are, in their local schools. OKDHS and the local school district form a contractual partnership to bring a school-based specialist to the school or schools that need their assistance most within the district, with the district and OKDHS sharing the cost of the specialist.
“The school-based specialist really serves as human services connection for the children and families served, helping them apply for services offered by OKDHS, or making connections to other services needed within the community,” said Jami Majors, Program Administrator for Community Partnerships and School-Based Services. “They also support teachers and administrators by helping families navigate obstacles that affect a child’s ability to learn – things like needing to put more food on the table, or resources to support the student’s or family’s mental health, among many other things.”
Schools currently partnered with the program say the services provided by their school-based specialist are invaluable, bringing a compassionate, knowledgeable professional who can assist students and families to meet their basic needs. The school-based specialist becomes an extension of the school district, coordinating with the school, OKDHS and the local community - multidisciplinary teams, health care providers and other non-profits - to connect students and families with resources to help them succeed.
Tami Duvall is a new School-Based Specialist for Checotah Public Schools, having first retired as an elementary school teacher after teaching for 25 years. But her team says that despite her short time in the position, she has already made an incredible impact for the families she serves.
“Tami Duvall has been so beneficial to our school, helping in many different areas with such a willingness to serve our families,” said Checotah Schools Principal Cindy Frame. “She has helped secure food for several families, and even visited with families and took food to them during the snowstorm in February. Mrs. Duvall is extremely proactive and has plans in place even before a need arises. There is no limit to what she will do to help the school and our families. She even helped one of our elderly grandparents obtain a COVID vaccine. Many of the duties Mrs. Duvall has assumed this year would have gone unattended if we had not had someone in her position. She communicates daily with parents, guardians and teachers to stay informed about students and their needs, and then follows their progress until the need is resolved. She is a valuable team member in tracking online students' progress and helping with attendance. I hate to think how this year would have been with all the COVID precautions if we had not had Mrs. Duvall. She is such a productive and valuable member of our school team, it would be hard for me to list all the things she does on a daily basis for our staff and students.”
As OKDHS grows the School-Based Services program this year, additional schools have the ability to explore how a school-based specialist could connect and build relationships within their school district and help them serve local families. As many students return to in-person instruction with more than a year of pandemic experiences and other needs that could negatively impact their learning processes, schools may find the additional support to be the very thing students and families need to thrive.
“Being a school-based specialist enables me to fulfill my calling to help ALL students and families thrive throughout our community,” said Duvall. “It also allows me to walk alongside each family as they navigate some of life's hurdles all while building lasting relationships. I feel this position is important to Oklahoma's children and families because of the lasting effect of true advocacy and bridging the communication divide between home and school.”
To learn about the School-Based Services Program and how it could benefit your local school and students, visit the School-Based Services page on the OKDHS website. From this webpage, you may also view testimonials from currently partnered schools, program assurances, and make application to bring a school-based specialist to your district.
Do you have a HOPE hero story you'd like us to share? Email it to email@example.com.