Oklahoma's rural nature will present researchers with a challenge, Brook said. But KU researchers recently implemented a similar program for families in Kansas, which also has vast rural areas, and were able to reduce the average foster child's term in foster care by 190 days. Researchers hope to take some of the lessons they learned in Kansas and apply them to Oklahoma, she said.
One of the new portions of the program is a type of therapy that is geared toward parents whose children have been placed in foster care due to the parents' substance abuse.
Known as solution-focused brief therapy, the method helps the parents focus on progress they've made, rather than things they're doing wrong, said Johnny Kim, a KU professor of social welfare.
The method of therapy has become popular recently, Kim said, but more research is needed to see how effective it is in different settings and with different clients. The program is a good opportunity to evaluate the method's effectiveness while potentially helping families around the state, he said.
The therapy works under the assumption that, no matter how bad the parent's problems have become, there's a time when they're able to manage their substance abuse or addiction, Kim said.
By teaching the client to focus on those times rather than the times when they fall short, researchers hope to make the clients more receptive to behavior changes.
The method tends to include about five to eight therapy sessions, Kim said, depending on how complex the problem is and how committed the client is.
Rather than trying to uncover the underlying cause of the problem, which could take months, researchers focus on how to solve it.
“We're sort of jumping straight to the solutions and trying to build on that,” Kim said.