Winfree Academy Charter Schools has developed an innovated web based alert system (Linking Tree) that helps link students and their families to community resources in order to meet mental health and social service needs. Most of our students come to us because they have been unsuccessful in a traditional school district. They have adult responsibilities and adult problems for which they need help in order to be successful academically. Again and again we came across students that have been through traumatic events, suffered from depression, needed help paying bills, and have children of their own to care for. All of these things hindered their ability to concentrate and succeed academically. In order to help our students Linking Tree was established. Linking Tree began in the 2008-2009 school year on our two Tarrant county campuses (North Richland Hills and Grapevine). This program allowed any student, parent, teacher or school employee to complete a referral on a student. Referrals are based not only on first hand knowledge of a situation but also on noticed behavior changes in the students’ daily life. Once a referral was received, the student’s Academic Guide confirms that a consent form is on file and inputs the information into the portal. These referrals generate an automatic email that is sent to our Student Services Department. From there, the referral is turned into a “project” and emails are automatically sent out to all partnering agencies in that community. The agencies respond by replying with the services they are offering the student or family. The agency then contacts the family directly to offer services.
Professional development is a key element to the success of this program. All of the staff members attended Linking Tree trainings to determine appropriate times to complete referrals. The staff members also attended trainings on recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, cultural diversity, professional boundaries and confidentiality guidelines. All of these seminars are designed to educate our staff and prepare them to recognize possible issues in our students’ lives.
This program was very successful. We have several community partners including Tarrant County MHMR, Tarrant County Juvenile Services, the Women’s Center of Tarrant County, Santa Fe Youth Services and many more. With the help of these partnering agencies, we were able to get students assistance in dealing with deaths in the family, divorce or major changes in family structure, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, depression or suicidal thoughts, rent assistance, transportation assistance, vision assistance…. The list goes on and on with the many different services that we “linked” our students to.
Linking Tree was so successful in its inaugural year that in 2009-2010, the program was expanded to cover all six campuses in Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties. Currently, Linking Tree services are available to over 4,000 high school students each year. We pride ourselves on meeting all the needs of our students so that they can be academically successful. This is where AMAZING things happen!
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