Wichita Children's Home

Department of Health and Human Services Awards $150,000 Grant to Wichita Children’s Home (WCH)

Wichita Children’s Home (WCH) was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the Department Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Street Outreach Program to provide prevention and intervention services to runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and severe forms of trafficking in persons.

The Street Outreach Program (SOP) provides effective, evidence-based interventions for runaway and homeless youth (RHY) in the Wichita area. The program will link youth with case managers who will work with youth to develop safety plans and goals to help them leave the streets. SOP staff will make these connections by canvassing areas where RHY tend to congregate during evenings and weekends. In addition to case management services, WCH’s SOP program will help youth leave situations that expose them to sexual exploitation or trafficking; build strong linkages between RHY and community services; enhance protective factors; strengthen positive connections to schools, vocations, friends, and caring adults; and build skills that help youth transition into adulthood. The SOP’s trauma-informed approach equips staff to understand and respond to the symptoms of chronic, interpersonal trauma and stress and their consequences for behavioral and mental health. A major project component is working to identify and serve youth victims of and those at risk of becoming victims of sex or labor trafficking and provide interventions to prevent and end sexual exploitation and trafficking of RHY. WCH’s project integrates positive youth development, including healthy messages, safe and structured places, adult role models, skill development, and opportunities to serve others.

With the escalation in poverty in Wichita, risk and danger are increasing for the area’s runaway and homeless youth. Whether a young person is ordered to leave their home “abandoned” or runs away, the result is often the same: disconnection, vulnerability, and a fight to survive away from caring adults. Often characterized by layers of trauma, RHY lack access to jobs, housing, transportation, schooling, and basic needs. Without intervention, young people can become used to street life, trading sex for shelter or money, and turning to drugs and alcohol as means of coping. This often leads to RHY becoming trapped in a life of poverty.

Wichita Children’s Home (WCH), located in Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, has served runaway and homeless youth (RHY) under age 21 for more than 30 years. Founded in 1888, WCH is a 501(c)3 addressing the needs of abused, neglected, abandoned, runaway, homeless, exploited and trafficked children and youth through a broad spectrum of collaborative and targeted services. WCH has provided ACF RHY Basic Center Program services since 1987, Street Outreach Program services since 1996, and a Transitional Living Program since 1995.

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