In 2019, EMBARK launched Climb Ride, a pilot program to remove transportation as a barrier to Oklahoma County residents working toward reunification with their children through the Department of Human Services Child Welfare.
During the pilot, the program helped reunite 22 families, saving the state up to $30,000 per case in foster care services and support, resulting in quicker family reunifications.
Climb Ride provides participants access to a suite of transportation options to complete their court-ordered services. The funding for the pilot program comes from a Transportation Innovation Grant (TIG) through the Arnall Family Foundation.
EMBARK, along with the Community Transportation Association of America, and the Oklahoma Transit Association, submitted a joint grant application to develop the program.
"One of EMBARK's core values is to Be There, which translates into showing up with our whole hearts - eager to learn and ready to serve our community and each other,” said Jason Ferbrache, EMBARK administrator. "The Climb Ride program is a reflection of our values in action. Already, we have seen lives change for the better. Public transportation is as essential as clean water to the wellbeing of modern communities. We know that where EMBARK’s public transit services go, our community grows."
Oklahoma County DHS said it strives to reunify 55% of its families within 12 months. When a family uses Climb Ride, EMBARK works with participants to find existing transportation options or on-demand services to help DHS families attend visitations, education, or rehabilitation services to reduce the time families are apart. Nearly 6,300 trips were completed during the pilot phase of the program.
"The Climb Ride program is a great example of what can be done to improve human services program outcomes and reduce costs," said Scott Bogren, CTAA executive director. "Transit agencies continue to pursue opportunities that bring value to their community. We are grateful to partner with EMBARK, the Oklahoma Transit Association, and the Arnall Family Foundation in creating Climb Ride."
The Arnall Family Foundation awarded $1 million to fund the four-year pilot program. Sue Ann Arnall, founder and president of the Arnall Family Foundation, said that one goal of the TIG was to bring forth ideas that could “be replicated to benefit other vulnerable populations, including those affected by the criminal justice system.”
"Developing innovative, scalable solutions to close gaps in services and lower barriers is paramount to improving outcomes for marginalized individuals in our community," said Arnall. "With safe, reliable transportation provided by the Climb Ride program, families in Oklahoma County have access to services, which leads to faster reunification at a lower cost for the state. This model and the opportunity to replicate it to support other social service efforts signifies hope for healing and restoration in our community."