By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Special Interest | Issue: August 2010
Brandy Peoples, Ashley Muglia, Libby Hillman and Kellie Sundberg of the Bair Foundation are asking for help from individuals, businesses and churches in the community.
Not many people would respond to an ad like this: Help Wanted! Hard work. Long hours. Low pay. Patience, empathy, attention and determination to succeed required.
That’s virtually the work of a foster parent at the Bair Foundation, a Christian foster care ministry that provides temporary care for newborns through 17-year-olds who are in DHS custody. For many people, this is the hardest, most challenging work they will ever undertake. But it’s also some of the most rewarding work.
Foster parents have the potential to change young lives when they are most vulnerable. These fragile young people are frightened. They have been taken from homes where they were victims of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Substance abuse and imprisonment by one or both parents is a factor in the majority of all foster home placements. Yet, these are the only ties the kids have ever known.
Developmental problems, health issues and psychological scarring due to family disruption are often part of their baggage. Through its foster parenting program, the Bair Foundation aims to provide guidance, educational opportunities and therapeutic care these children would not otherwise receive.
The Bair Foundation is the only Christian-based foster care organization in Oklahoma. They believe that foster parents sow the seeds of faith, love and hope into the lives of the youngsters in their care. Although they have had a presence in Tulsa for more than 13 years, many people are not familiar with their work in the community.
“We want to get our name out there to let people know we are here and we need some help,” says Libby Hillman, social service worker. Roots of the nonprofit organization go back to rural Pennsylvania in 1967. Bill and Marilyn Bair answered what they believed was their calling. Just two years from retirement, Bill quit his job and devoted his life to helping troubled kids in the area. Their efforts grew through church alliances and people realizing how much there was to life beyond themselves.
Now the Bair Foundation has 34 offices in eight states. The Tulsa office handles approximately 40 youngsters on any day. Their services includes therapeutic foster care and emergency foster care that can last anywhere from 30 days to a year. Foster parents receive extensive training for six to eight weeks to prepare them for the challenges ahead.
Libby explains that prayer is an important part of all their activities. Involving kids in Christian worship is encouraged among foster families, but is not a requirement.Foster parents don’t have to come in couples. Singles, divorced and widowed individuals are also welcome to apply. Anyone with a background in dealing with teens is especially needed.
An example of what can be done, one young wife and new mother who leads an accomplished life shares her home with a teenage girl in need. The young woman’s earlier days were spent in foster care. A model of love and compassion impacted her life so that she and her husband now serve as foster parents.
Libby realizes that not all people hear the call to foster, but they still want to help. There are many volunteer opportunities that include fundraising, marketing or general office duties. The social workers in the office take on most of these tasks with time that could be better used to help needy children.
Gift cards that sit in drawers and often go unused are always welcome, in addition to in-kind donations such as certificates for restaurants, services and entertainment venues. Local churches could help by requesting a Bair Foundation presentation in their service, Bible study or club meeting. These special kids need special people to care about them. For more information, call (918) 298-5059.
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.