By: Lorrie Ward | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: July 2014
Kyle Becker and Jason Cecil of TFI Family Connections.
Imagine you are a child who has been abused or neglected in the only home you have ever known. Suddenly, you are taken from your “nest” by those who claim they want to help you – but it doesn’t feel that way when you are placed in strange living surroundings and even into a new school. The home you knew before may not have seemed welcoming, but neither does the new world you’ve just entered. And to make it even worse, you have no control over the situation and none of it is your fault.
Unfortunately, this is all too common a scenario for children who are removed from their homes for their own protection. According to Jason Cecil and Kyle Becker of TFI Family Connections, their organization works hard to change all of that, with priorities of restoring families and keeping children in foster homes in their home areas. But the biggest obstacle facing the achievement of this goal is a lack of foster homes. “In the last year in Tulsa County, for example, 1,700 children have been removed from their homes,” said Cecil. “But there are currently only 217 foster homes available.”
Becker attributes part of this problem to the fear and misunderstanding that often surround these children’s situations. “Foster care has a lot of negative stigma associated with it, but we’ve found that people who get involved as foster parents realize that these children are not at fault and have just come out of bad situations of abuse and neglect,” said Becker. “They just need a home to care for them and someone to stay with.”
The foster care system in Oklahoma was previously regulated by DHS, but due to recent legislative changes, the agency now works hand in hand with the privately owned TFI Family Connections to provide quality foster homes to children in need. TFI Family Connections works hard to live up to its name and offers extensive training for foster families. They continue the support by either providing or providing access to the following services: 24 hour on-call social worker, informative monthly newsletter, local monthly support meetings, free ongoing training, multimedia resource library, close-to-home service office, respite care, professional (and consistent) personal case manager, in-home behavioral health services with no waiting periods, liability insurance, and reimbursement payments. In addition, they help navigate through services offered by DHS, which still include financial reimbursement for foster families, and clothing allowances and Sooner Care insurance for the foster children. From the very beginning with TFI Family Connections, foster parents are never alone in their efforts to foster children – TFI not only helps them “feather the nest” by offering step-by-step training resources (including online classes), but helps maintain the connecting threads of that nest as well.
According to Cecil and Becker, this strong foundation for successful foster parenting is already in place. The great need is for those who are willing to build on that foundation by becoming foster parents. Both men are willing to come and speak to individuals or groups about the process and want to answer any questions and calm any fears that potential foster parents might have. “We want to reach out to the community through organizations and churches,” says Cecil, who encourages these entities to contact either himself or Becker to come out and speak. “We will come out and meet with you.”
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