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New company using KU-backed software to match children, families

Thu, 06/26/2014

LAWRENCE — A new startup company is working to match children with foster families, with some assistance from the University of Kansas.

Foster Care Technologies LLC has developed a web-based tool that assists child welfare staff locate the best possible family match for a child in need of a foster care placement. The tool, called Every Child a Priority (ECAP), combines advanced statistical analysis and technology to match foster children with families that are more likely to meet their particular needs. The goal is to create better, stronger matches that benefit children and families while also lowering costs for child welfare organizations.

“Essentially, ECAP is an enhanced matchmaking service for children and families,” said Mike Patrick, chief executive officer of Topeka nonprofit TFI Family Services Inc., which created ECAP. “It’s an evidence-based tool designed to create matches that benefit children and families alike. We’re optimistic it can change the way foster care organizations nationally do their matching.”

Foster Care Technologies is a joint creation of TFI Family Services and the Bioscience & Technology Business Center at KU. The new company was born when TFI approached the BTBC for assistance in commercializing ECAP, at which point the BTBC proposed jointly creating the new company as a vehicle to market and sell the tool.

Foster Care Technologies has two employees, both based in Lawrence, and will look to add a third in the coming weeks. The company will be jointly managed by TFI and the BTBC.

In addition to partnering with the BTBC, TFI has been working with the KU School of Social Welfare. As part of their development of the ECAP tool, about two years ago TFI asked School of Social Welfare researchers Terry Moore and Tom McDonald to validate the product. Specifically, Moore and McDonald were asked to rigorously test the Appropriate Placement Level Indicator (APLI), a child assessment tool created by TFI as a key part of the ECAP system.

Moore and McDonald examined nearly 2,300 foster care placements spanning August 2010 to April 2012 and found the APLI to be a valid indicator. More broadly, they found ECAP increased placement stability by 23 percent and reduced average time of placement by two months.

“Placement stability is a crucial measure,” said Moore, who is working to publish his assessment of ECAP in an academic journal. “Obviously, you want to minimize the degree to which kids are moving from place to place to place. That kind of constant upheaval isn’t good for them. We found ECAP to be a viable tool for increasing placement stability.”

Mike Smithyman, operations director for the BTBC, said the creation of this new company is a perfect illustration of how unique the BTBC at KU is.

“You have an industry leader like TFI creating a new product, bringing it to KU researchers for rigorous external validation, and then working with the BTBC to commercialize it by jointly creating a company,” Smithyman said. “All the pieces are here in one place. This is a tremendous example of why the BTBC at KU is such a powerful model for creating new companies, growing existing companies and getting new products to market.”

Moving forward, Foster Care Technologies will focus on improving ECAP and selling licensing agreements to child-placing agencies across the country.

“There is great potential for this product,” said Patrick, who himself has a master's degree in social work from KU. “More importantly, there’s great potential for making a difference in the lives of foster children.”



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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


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