By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Special Interest | Issue: November 2009
Donna Bonds, Greg Stiver, Maria Carter, Stephen Barton and Leslie Yocham (seated) are ready to prepare you for the challenges and rewards of therapeutic foster care.
Sage scholars and clerics agree that one of the keys to happiness is serving others. Imagine the joy of knowing that you are the agent for positive change in a young person’s life. This young person has been physically, sexually or verbally abused, or is one who knows the pain of poverty, homelessness, alcohol or drugs.
Choices for Life Foster Care at 724 S. Mission in Sapulpa is desperately searching for 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.
Leslie Yocham, Choices for Life supervisor, has noticed that along with the growing popularity of methanphetamines, increasing numbers of children are left behind as parents are imprisoned. Emotions can run rampant. Attention spans can be short. Most of the children have conduct disorders and lack typical social skills.
“It’s hard to understand,” she explains, “but it doesn’t matter what their parents did. The kids still love them, and they still have hopes of being a happy family. Christmastime is especially hard for them.”
The goal is for a strong and stable foster family to give the child a chance to heal, grow, develop and return home. For anywhere from six months to two-and-a-half years, they integrate the child into their family, school, community and church. “But the goal is always for reunification with their biological families,” says Leslie.
For those who have the heart, patience and flexibility, and can accept the challenge, training is provided free of charge. Trainees meet for two hours every week for seven weeks.
Upon certification as treatment parent specialists, the foster parents 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.
One such young lady who had been with the program for a year left at the end of August to attend OSU, where she is reportedly doing very well. Another young man, 18, is currently enrolled in a vocational culinary arts program.
People from all walks of life with all kinds of reasons feel the calling to become therapeutic foster parents. Leslie has noticed, however, that several empty nest couples have recently joined the ranks.
Leslie also notes four cases in which adoptions are under way for foster care children who could not be returned to their families.
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 a special program for children from birth to age five, as well as 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 Leslie Yocham at (918) 248-4340. The Choices for Life office is open 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.