School-Based Specialists guide vision of HOPE for students and families
As back-to-school is upon us across Oklahoma, we are reminded of all our local schools do to support our state’s children and families, as well as their communities. Teachers, nurses, counselors, and administrators are joyfully welcoming our little ones back through their doors after an unprecedented school year punctuated by uncertainty and rapid change.
In addition to the stresses of COVID-19, these loyal and loving educators also bear witness to all the other struggles that happen outside of the classroom – struggles OKDHS school-based specialists stand ready to alleviate with help and HOPE for students.
The Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) School-Based Services Program is a collaborative partnership between OKDHS and local school districts. School-based specialists are placed into contracted schools with the dedicated purpose of providing human service delivery and support to the children and families served by the school, as well as the school’s teachers and administrators.
“School-based specialists are dedicated public servants who genuinely care about the students and families they serve,” said Jami Majors, Director of Community Partnerships. “Their work is critical to ensure local families have what they need to be successful both in school and at home, and that students can focus on their learning and friendships.”
OKDHS regularly receives stories of the significant impacts our school-based specialists make in the lives of the students and families they serve. The following story is small snapshot into the care and support they pour into their communities that improve outcomes and reduce risk factors. Names and details have been removed or altered to protect the confidentiality of the customer mentioned in this story.
When school started last fall, a young boy at a local school struggled with being separated from his mother for several hours after drop-off. His anguish was shared by school officials who wanted so badly to help him feel comfortable at school.
His local school-based specialist, Courtney, knew she had to find a way to help and began to dig deeper with the young boy’s family. She visited with his mother and got a glimpse into the family’s history and some of the challenges the boy had recently faced. With her empathetic ear, Courtney began to gain the family’s trust, even as the morning sadness persisted.
Courtney noticed that despite offering supplemental nutrition shakes, the child could not gain weight, and his teachers began to notice that he was bumping into things. Courtney offered referrals to both a children’s clinic and local eye doctor who discovered cataracts so large that they rendered the boy almost completely blind. The eye doctor suspected the cataracts had formed as a result of undiagnosed diabetes, which was quickly confirmed by his blood sugar levels, which were off the charts. As a result, the boy was immediately admitted to a local children’s hospital.
After a week of inpatient care, the boy returned to school completely changed. His morning meltdowns ceased and were replaced with new friendships and morning hugs for Courtney. One of his new friends even offered to walk with him as a pair of guiding eyes until he could have his cataract surgery.
Eventually, the child was able to have a successful cataract surgery, followed by the installation of an insulin pump. His mom remarks how thankful she is for Courtney’s guidance and support to help her son find health, happiness and HOPE for a brighter school year.
“Seeing my student struggling so much every day was heartbreaking,” said Courtney. “His mom and I knew there was more to it than just a ‘behavioral issue.’ We leaned on each other to get through all those months filled with questions and no answers. The bond that I established with that family and seeing the little boy finally get the proper diagnosis and treatment is one of the most rewarding feelings I have ever felt in my ten years with the agency.”
Schools interested in learning more about the School-Based Services program or bringing a school-based specialist, like Courtney, to their local school for the 2022-2023 school year when applications open again, can visit https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/services/foster/schoolbasedservices/sbshome.html
Do you have a HOPE hero story you'd like us to share? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.