By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Other | Issue: May 2010
Stephen Barton, Lisa Prescott, Grace Claflin and Anna Lawmaster (not pictured: Leslie Yocham, Cherry Temple and Lauren Wiehle) say “thank you” to all their current families and look forward to welcoming more in May.
A six-year-old girl was found caring for her three younger siblings, searching for their food and changing a baby’s diapers. This didn’t happen in a distant city. It happened recently, right here in this community.
Unfortunately, this story and other incidents of parental neglect are far too commonly seen by the staff at Choices for Life Foster Care, 724 S. Mission in Sapulpa. Often they deal with kids who are locked in their rooms for days without food or bathroom facilities.
Every day they face the needs of children and youth, from birth to 18, whose own families are in crisis and cannot provide for their wellbeing. Their histories include poverty, homelessness, alcohol, drugs, incarceration, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect. The higher levels of emotional and behavioral needs of the children extend beyond the reach of DHS assistance.
Choices for Life takes as many children as possible from crowded shelters and provides them with the specialized treatment and nurturing they need. Their belief is that all children require and deserve a safe and happy life, with a meaningful connection to a caring adult who becomes a supportive and lasting presence to them.
As part of National Foster Care Month in May, Choices for Life will honor all of its foster parents with a special dinner and parents’ night out. It’s their way of recognizing the generosity and commitment of foster parents, and of raising awareness about the need for more families who are willing to open their homes and hearts to these children.
The process includes seven weeks of free training, where treatment families learn to create opportunities for their foster child to heal, grow and develop interpersonal and behavioral skills to become a positive and accomplished adult.
Therapists and other social professionals carefully match each child with a strong and stable foster family who will integrate that child not only in their family, but also in their community, school and church.
Lisa Prescott, statewide training and recruiting coordinator, knows the program works. During the past year, she has seen a substantial increase in the number of families who receive training and offer their service. Last year 13 new families each took in one, two – even three children.
Lisa has also seen more families who have some type of connection with foster care. Some, such as teachers, have had foster children in their classrooms. Others have a family member or know someone who has been in foster care. Still others have first-hand experience, having been foster children themselves. “I can teach out of a book,” says Lisa, “but these people can teach from experience. They have grown and they want to give back. It’s wonderful.”
There are all types of situations for those who will accept the challenge. One recent foster family accepted a homeless 14-year-old girl and her newborn baby. To welcome their new additions, the couple invited all their friends and family members to a big baby shower. They care for the infant while the girl attends classes, like a normal young teen. After school she learns proper childcare and ways to make a better life for her and her baby.
Although the goal of the program is always reunification with the biological families or primary caregiver, in about one-third of their cases there is no family to return to. Six of these children have been adopted by their foster parents, and two more adoptions are in progress.
Caring families are especially needed for older youth, siblings and children with special needs. A new foster care class begins in May. For more information on how to make a lifelong difference in a young person’s life, call (918) 248-4340 Monday through Friday between 8:30 and 5.
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.