Climb Ride pairs mobility and social service for Oklahoma City child welfare system

May 9, 2022
The four-year pilot program was designed to be a scalable solution for other transit systems to learn from.

EMBARK in Oklahoma City, Ok., with support from the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and the Oklahoma Transit Association, has published a report on a four-year pilot program, Climb Ride, designed to reunify families through the Department of Human Services Child Welfare by removing transportation as a barrier.

Climb Ride provides families in the foster care system with comprehensive transportation options, including transportation training, incentives and post-program support, as participants work to complete their court-ordered services.

"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."

The program by the numbers include:

  • 6,300 trips were completed during pilot phase of the program
  • 22 families reunited
  • $30,000 per case saved in foster care and support
  • Climb Ride participants have a 63 percent reunification rate

Oklahoma County DHS has a goal to reunify 55 percent of its families within 12 months; Climb Ride participants had a reunification rate of 63 percent and an average case length of 16.5 months.

"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."

The Climb Ride program was funded with a $1 million Transportation Innovation Grant through the Arnall Family Foundation. The foundation seeks to create lasting, transformative change through strategic investments and innovative partnerships. According to the foundation’s Founder and President Sue Ann Arnall, one of the goals with the TIG grants was to develop an idea 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."

The report on the Climb Ride program is available through EMBARK’s website and offers a deep dive into the program’s case studies, data and future. CTAA notes there is context offered throughout the report to detail the program’s history, which include information on: modes of trip delivery/purpose, the trauma training program developed for public transit operators and the exploration of a customizable tech dashboard to ease the rider’s user experience.

EMBARK says it is pursuing funding to continue the Climb Ride program.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.