December 2016: Leslie Yocham, agency training and recruiting supervisor at Choices for Life Foster Care, is often asked what it takes to become a therapeutic foster parent.
In response to a school assignment to write an ad, a 10-year-old girl answers the question through the eyes of a foster child who was recently adopted.
CHOICES FOR LIFE SEEKS FOSTER PARENTS
Must be able to cook just enough for kids. Do things that your kid enjoys. Drop them off at a park with husband or wife while running errands. Must keep child clothed and fed. Keep them busy. Keep them in touch with case worker. Feed their bad habits with kindness and good. Help them learn the good habits of life. Hopefully the child that you are fostering will go home.
Through the eyes of a professional, Leslie adds, “patience, understanding and the willingness to ask for help to do what is best for a child in need.” Foster parents from all walks of life have answered the call and experienced some of the most difficult, yet rewarding, challenges in their lives.
Choices for Life, with offices in Sapulpa, Ponca City, Checotah and Oklahoma City, focuses on children with a higher level of emotional and behavioral issues. Statewide, there are more than 130 children ranging from 4 to 17—many of them native Americans-- awaiting therapeutic foster care. All come with their own adversities through no fault of their own. Their issues range from extreme neglect to verbal and sexual abuse. Their special needs require special care that is not available through traditional foster channels.
“Most of these kids have had unique and traumatic experiences far beyond their years,” says Leslie. “Imagine the feeling of a kid being picked up at school by state workers. The parents have been arrested. The child does not have a chance to say good-by to anyone, leaving school with strangers and only the clothes on his or her back.”
Many times education is far distant because the focus is on simply surviving another day. Kids are rescued from bad situations, but do not recognize the danger, feeling as though they have no control over their lives.
The sooner they are placed in therapeutic foster care, the sooner they can start rebuilding their lives. Each child is carefully evaluated and then matched with a strong and stable foster family who will nurture the child to heal, grow and develop the interpersonal and behavioral skills to become a positive and accomplished adult.
Foster parents must deal with emotions that sometimes seem to change by the minute. The training they receive, professional support, mentoring and continuing education assures them they are not alone in their journey. Help is just a phone call away every minute of every day.
The 6 to 8 week training is free of charge to foster parents. Costs for the child are reimbursed. Parents not only learn to work with the foster children, but with their biological families, with the goal to eventually reunite them.
If you have even thought of becoming a therapeutic foster parent, please call Choices for Life today. A waiting child could use your help.
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