By: Jim Butcher | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: November 2015
Christine Hamner, MS, LPC, LADC, clinical supervisor of Choices for Life Foster Care in Sapulpa.
How large is your heart? Not physically, but its capacity to love and care for children? What about for children with special needs? Bringing a child into your home to live is a truly benevolent act, but it can be especially challenging when the child has special needs. Choices for Life Foster Care in Sapulpa specializes in therapeutic foster care for children with unique needs. Having contracted with the Department of Human Services, the agency places children from traumatizing households into homes with foster parents who are willing to go above and beyond usual expectations and provide loving environments that encourage healing, learning and growth.
“We get referrals daily from DHS about children who need our services, but we simply do not have enough foster parents and homes,” explains Christine Hamner, MS, LPC, LADC, clinical supervisor for Choices for Life in Sapulpa.
The need for qualified and responsible foster parents willing to take on relatively challenging cases is ongoing. “Potential foster parents need to understand the reality of the situation,” she adds. The cases they take often involve heartbreaking stories, ranging from physical and emotional abuse to drug addiction in the household. Indeed, it takes a special type of person to not only consider stepping into such situations, but to commit to helping these children heal and learn how to live a life of normalcy.
There are a few basic steps that potential foster parents should expect as they consider working with Choices for Life. “You have to be truly honest with yourself,” Hamner says. “Ask yourself, ‘Do I have the desire to foster a child, and am I prepared to help provide certain qualities that are missing in their life?’”
Hamner, who earned a master’s degree at Northeastern State University and has worked in mental health for more than a decade, notes that helping these children can be most rewarding – “rewarding in a way that will touch your life as well.”
Every applicant is thoroughly investigated, including financial, DMV and OSBI background checks. Choices for Life is committed to ensuring that foster homes are focused on providing a healthy environment for these children and that potential parents are not viewing the situation as a means to balancing their household budget.
Foster parents are financially reimbursed up to $45 per day for child maintenance; incentives include referral bonus, teenage placement bonus, Christmas bonus, paid respite, and free training and certification. Choices for Life is committed to ensuring that children have adequate space and a healthy family atmosphere, and that means home inspections are important before and during the fostering process.
Children range in age from as young as 4 to 17. The minimum age for foster parents is 21, while most are 35 to 50. Comprehensive training and support is just one of the many facets of Choice for Life’s unique approach to providing wraparound services for therapeutic foster care. Therapists meet with families in the home at least once per week. The agency provides 24-hour phone support and works with schools to ensure appropriate attention and care are considered in the child’s academic environment – crucial in any child’s life. Treatment plans are updated every 90 days, ensuring families, therapists, schools and child are all on the same page and are attentive to the real-time needs of everyone involved. All of this combines to create a foster agency that exceeds standards and expectations and connects children with good homes.
If interested in fostering or searching for a way to make a positive difference in the lives of children in need, then you owe it to yourself and the community to contact Choices for Life. There is no better time than the present to give the gift of a loving home to a child in need. “We’re in this together to make a positive change in these children’s lives,” says Hamner.
Jim Butcher is a retired, award-winning newspaperman who continues to write as a freelance writer and photographer. He owned the Tulsa Front Page weekly and was executive editor to Neighbor Newspapers' 13 metro newspapers. Currently, he writes for Value News and has become a paid assignment screenwriter, along with a University of Oklahoma professor who wrote Brad Pitt's first feature film. His award-winning screenplay is on the historical Osage Indian Murders of the 1920s.
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