Dec 13 2018
By Callie Langford
“This program has helped me and my children in so many ways. It’s been so hard not having a vehicle to get us to our appointments, school, therapy, CPS court… [the] Lyft program has made our [lives] so much easier.”
In early 2018, the ridesharing company Lyft approached CASA about a potential collaboration. They had already sent employees to volunteer at our CASA Superhero Run and provided safe ride discounts to our CASAblanca Gala guests. Now they came to the table asking how their specific services could have the greatest impact for CASA and our clients.
We know that transportation can be a significant barrier to reunification for some of the children and families we work with. Parents who are willing to engage in their case and go through required services for their kids shouldn’t be kept from doing so because of a lack of transportation, and unfortunately the public transportation available in Austin isn’t always efficient or available where parents live. If all other elements are in good shape for reunifying, it’s certainly not in a child’s best interest for transportation to be the final barrier.
“We know that every day a child is separated from their family is traumatic, so we want to help facilitate the reunification process, while also encouraging a family to become self-sufficient,” says Director of Program Innovation Catherine Jones. “And we certainly don’t want parents not visiting their kids just because they can’t get to the CPS office.”
Lyft was ready to provide a solution to this barrier, and since June, we have been piloting a program in which Lyft provides free rides to some parents on our cases who are working successfully towards reunification but have transportation limitations.
As we have developed this program, we’ve built out a parent agreement in which they sign off on not sending kids anywhere by themselves, providing car seats for kids who need them, and using the free Lyft service only for CPS case-related needs. Since this service ends when their CPS case ends, it’s important that parents don’t become overly reliant and are also building their resources to solve this problem in the long term.
Since starting the pilot this summer, two families who were involved have been reunified and had their CPS cases closed, and the Lyft program helped them on that positive path.
Now we’re working with Lyft to assess the promising future of this program and how it can help even more children and families.
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