By: Deanna Rebro | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: December 2010
Choices for Life Foster Care staff members (L to R) Grace Claflin, Julie Kline, Melissa Earnest, Cherry Temple, Maria Carter and Lauren Wiehle help foster parents and their therapeutic foster children along the journey of healing and becoming well-adjusted adults.
Some would call it a holiday miracle. Against all odds, three young lives that appeared doomed have blossomed. And that’s just the beginning.
Little more than a year ago, three children were found wandering the streets. The 6, 7 and 8-year-old sisters were locked out of their home to fend for themselves in the hot summer, without the food or water provided an animal. Their father was absent. Their mother had problems with the law.
The girls were taken to a DHS shelter, where they were described as “wild.” School was a place they went to sporadically. The oldest of the three could not read at all.
Their story touched the heart of Grace Claflin, Choices for Life Foster Care therapist. She knew it would be tough to find someone to work with these girls together, but she would try.
That’s when a lady whose sister had done therapeutic foster care for many years came forward and accepted the challenge times three. At first it was not easy. The girls resisted the love that was offered. They lacked social skills and threw temper tantrums, sometimes lasting for hours. But their foster mother did not give up. Choices for Life training taught her how to deal with their behaviors, emotions and attitudes. And she had a counselor on call 24/7 to help with situations beyond her scope.
Soon the girls relaxed within the security they had never known. They became interested in learning experiences and doing fun things that most girls take for granted. Now the three girls love going to school, where they are doing well academically and participating in sports and other extracurricular activities. But their utmost favorite activity is shopping for new outfits.
Other holiday miracles are waiting to happen at Choices for Life Foster Care, 724 S. Mission in Sapulpa. The organization is desperately seeking foster parents to care for and support their backlog of children and teens presently in the DHS system. These children, ages 3 through 18, have a higher level of emotional and behavioral needs than those in traditional foster care. Choices for Life provides them with the therapeutic treatment they need but would not otherwise receive.
Lisa Prescott, statewide training and recruiting coordinator, says that teens have the greatest need, but are especially hard to place. “Some people are afraid to work with teens. But there is no need to be. If they have the heart, patience and flexibility, we provide the training and support to get them through the rough spots.”
The goal of therapeutic foster care is for a strong and stable foster family to give the child or teen a chance to heal, grow, develop, and return to their biological families. For anywhere from six months to two and a half years, they integrate the foster child into their family, school, community and church.
All kinds of people from all walks of life feel the calling to become therapeutic foster parents – empty nesters, retirees, and singles. After seven weeks of free training and upon certification as treatment parent specialists, they are carefully matched with an appropriate child and then become part of a solid professional team along with doctors, counselors and caseworkers who nurture the child and prepare him or her for a successful life.
Choices for Life is a national organization in Georgia and Oklahoma, with offices in Sapulpa, Oklahoma City, Checotah and Ponca City. In addition to therapeutic foster care, they offer outpatient counseling for any child – not limited to public systems – up to 18 years old who is on Medicaid.
This holiday season, think about the lifelong gift you could provide for a special child. To find out more, call Choices for Life Foster Care at (918) 248-4340, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.