When Impacting the Life of a Child in Rural America, Time and Distance Matter.

What if children in foster care in rural areas experienced the same level of therapeutic intervention as those living in urban areas?

Photo of Chad Anderson
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In a conversation with a foster parent, I heard a story of a 14 year old girl. She shared events of the weekend that included the girl becoming emotionally dysregulated and required a call to her therapist. The therapist drove to the home, but due to drive time the episode was over by the time she arrived. The foster parent shared there were two areas of high need: timeliness of therapeutic intervention and ways the foster parent could learn to help the children she serves.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Kansas

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Kansas

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The key issue is access to care. Proximity to services, provider availability, and environmental barriers are all key concepts to access. Children who are a part of the foster care population commonly have extensive trauma histories and are among the top 4% of children who utilize healthcare services. When those children do not have complete access to healthcare we create a greater disadvantage regarding their overall wellbeing.

KVC knows that a healthy brain leads to a healthy child. A healthy child leads to a healthy community. And in those healthy communities there are greater opportunities for healthy families to flourish. KVC’s MyLink program is an innovative telehealth and distance learning program that serves thousands across America. MyLink is a robust, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing program that gives children in foster care increased access to therapeutic and crisis intervention services, and also delivers continuing education opportunities to foster parents in the home. These benefits are especially important to the children we serve in rural areas.

KVC MyLink is the only project of its kind in the child welfare sector; the program equips children in foster care with iPads so that can directly connect to behavioral healthcare services such as therapy and ongoing education via video. This expansion will connect over 1,000 foster homes across Kansas, Nebraska, West Virginia and Kentucky where KVC works.

MyLink in not only changing everyday life for thousands of children and families; it also has the potential to change the trajectory of some young people’s lives forever. Children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect and who live in rural, underserved regions need support.

Brain science is critical to the program planning by KVC. With the cutting edge research, our goal is for our communities to become better informed about the needs of youth and that everyone has the capacity to engage a child in their community. It is imperative that we engage with adults and youth who are experiencing a mental health crisis in a different way than before. With the knowledge that brains are constantly growing, paired with a trauma informed mindset, we realize improving timely and quality access to care is critical to solving a large mental health need for services across the country, especially for children and families engaged in foster care. What happened to these families and how we help them overcome barriers that lie before them is essential to their long term success.

For families to feel supported, we have built a multitude of tools for them to utilize. Our staff has been fortunate enough to work with the Washington D.C. Department of Human Services in their foster care program, within school systems to strengthen family services and creating trauma informed cultures, training foster parents across the country on trauma, training police departments on trauma and its impact, training staff members from Kansas’ Department for Children and Families on trauma informed care, and we lead the Midwest Trauma Training Center in partnership with NYU. KVC is engaged internationally with Singapore to move towards community-based care from their current congregate care model.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

A KVC therapist began working with a family in a remote area of Kansas. The youth had a significant trauma history that required regular therapeutic support. The family had a home-based therapist, but when the family moved, the youth was not able to continue with the same therapist. The limitation of living far from a trauma informed clinician, and a child who would dysregulate in an office setting proved to be a challenge. Through MyLink, the same KVC therapist is now able to provide weekly therapy to the family. They have similar levels of engagement to face-to-face therapy, and the family is finally getting the support they need. MyLink also removed a long time barrier of time, travel and a lack of local providers trained in trauma.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In 2015, 59,638 people’s lives were directly impacted by KVC. Some highlights include 485 children being matched with adoptive families, 6,561 children were supported in KVC Foster Families, 26,638 children and families were supported with in-home services, 3,064 youth were served at our psychiatric hospitals, 636 people were trained by the NYU/KVC Midwest Trauma Training Center, 21,360 children and families were kept safely together through in-home family preservation series, 5,278 children and families were served with intensive in-home services, and other tailored services based on children and family needs. KVC was selected to participate in Change in Mind initiative with the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities to further our neuroscience work. KVC continues to innovate in the fields of practice and education for child welfare and behavioral healthcare.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • over $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

KVC received a grant from the USDA and other matching funders to initiate MyLink. Now that equipment is purchased and our staff is trained, long term sustainability lies in the therapeutic intervention which can be reimbursed through Medicaid payments for mental health services provided. We foresee upgrade and repair costs over the years which will be financed through program income including income from training provided by KVC.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

While other organizations are interested in brain science, access to care and trauma; KVC recognizes the importance to intertwine them. MyLink synchronizes therapeutic intervention, education, trauma treatment and training while removing barriers of access leading to children growing in healthy homes and communities. We want to impact systems of care, much like our current system that enables us to eliminate service gaps. We realize we must treat the environment as a whole, not the individual in isolation. Beyond direct service provision, we wish to inform policy and practice of the future.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The concept of advancing practice and education into policy and communities is imperative to the future of healthy children. Fully engaging our communities and society in education on brain science, wellbeing and community health enables our entire country and world to engage in health from a holistic perspective. The advancements in brain science have been pivotal to shift our practice from treatment to community involvement and we see that expanding over the years to come.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Program Design Clarity

MyLink is in KVC foster homes in Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky and West Virginia. MyLink provides HIPAA compliant teletherapy, telemedicine and distance learning within a combined behavioral healthcare and child welfare system. Over 1,000 iPads provide access for more than 3,000 children in foster care and distance learning services to 1,000 foster homes. Services have begun which include trainings offered to foster homes, telemedicine and teletherapy. Providers range from Psychiatrists/APRNs and Mental Health Clinicians to KVC professionals and experienced foster parents providing training.

Community Leadership

We surveyed foster parents regarding the need for services, use of technology and access to internet. In speaking with hundreds of foster parents, each had their own feelings of isolation, helplessness and need for more connection to providers and training. In Kansas, experienced foster parents co-facilitate in the training of new foster parents. We have not only seen foster parents on the receiving end of the technology but also in leadership.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

KVC uses technology to circumvent the problems that arise from the nature of the in-home services model in rural areas. KVC has also utilized video to connect children with an on-staff psychiatrist on a regular basis. This project, in many ways, will be a next frontier of technology by incorporating video conferencing as a means to both bring efficiencies to our processes and provide direct services to the vast majority of its clients.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

With lack of access there is a sense of isolation. We want to create a sense of connectedness for the child and the foster home. MyLink services enhance a child’s sense of self through ongoing support to heal from trauma and promotes belonging by connecting to their support system. Our next phase involves engaging the biological parent with the technology as research tells us that increased visitation leads to less time out of the family home.

Leadership Story

When I started my mental health career 17 years ago, I naively believed when I treated the child, their “new found health” would provide them the ability to thrive. What I quickly realized was without impacting the family’s health we would likely lose much of the gains. Over time, I have realized that we must look more deeply into prevention. Healthy communities create healthy families and healthy families create healthy children. None of us can do this alone and developing caring relationships with each other and those we serve is at the heart of the change we would like to see in the world.

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Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)


Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 100%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 0%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 0%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 50%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 25%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 25%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 50%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 50%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 75%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 25%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 50%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 100%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tambra Raye Stevenson

I love your leadership story - a true testament to changing within in order to change what's around you! Keep on pushing to the mountain top!

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