By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Professional Services | Issue: May 2015
Choices for Life staff members Kim Cardwell, Cynthia Stubblefield, Lisa Bohbrink, Keith Griffin, Christine Hamner, Kristi Selensky and Heather Melton work toward a goal of recruiting 43 therapeutic foster families by the end of June.
May marks a special time to honor special people who care for special kids. As part of National Foster Care Month, Choices for Life Foster Care in Sapulpa is honoring its foster parents and calling attention to the dire need for more.
An appreciation dinner at Freddie’s in Sapulpa kicked off the event. Foster families were recognized for their generosity and commitment to giving the neediest kids in the DHS system an opportunity to experience a meaningful connection with adults who care for them and support them. “Without our foster parents, these kids would not have this opportunity,” says clinical supervisor Christine Hamner.
Unlike traditional foster care, Choices for Life focuses on children with a higher level of emotional and behavioral needs. They come from families in crisis with no one to care for them. Their histories include abuse, neglect and homelessness. To these children, education is far distant to simply surviving another day.
Choices for Life takes these kids, from infants to age 18, from overcrowded DHS shelters and provides them with the therapeutic treatment they need but would not receive in traditional foster care. They currently have 55 children.
Each child is carefully evaluated and then matched with a strong and stable foster family that will nurture the child to heal, grow and develop the interpersonal and behavioral skills to become a positive and accomplished adult. “The goal is always to reunite the children with their biological families whenever possible,” says Christine, adding that Choices for Life provides counseling and support to help make a successful reunification.
Fostering a therapeutic child is not an easy task. It takes patience, love, strength and an open mind. For some people, it is a calling.
That is how Tommy and Kelly Evans feel about the more than 100 therapeutic foster children they have welcomed into their hearts and rural Collinsville home during the past 11 years. Kelly says her childhood dream was to have eight children. With two step children and two biological children, medical issues prevented more.
The Evans felt they had more love to give, so they began researching foster care agencies. “The people at Choices for Life were so professional and so supportive,” she recalls. “We felt comfortable with them.”
Seven years ago, they adopted two of their foster girls. At about the same time, two brothers, ages two and three, came to their home. Kelly says the only word either of them knew was “No!” One pulled out chunks of his hair in frustration. “They were separated from their family,” she explains. “They had not had the best situation, but the only one they knew.”
Today the boys are straight “A” students and are active in sports and music. And Kelly’s dream of having eight children came true with their official adoptions.
Looking back over the years, she remembers numerous challenges when they needed the support of a Choices for Life therapist. A simple phone call to a professional who is available every minute of every day put them on the right track. “You have to step back and put yourself in the kids’ shoes. They are scared. But regardless of how they act, they all want someone to love them.”
Kelly says her brother and sister-in-law became interested in the foster kids and will soon begin training to become therapeutic foster care parents. The four to six weeks training is free and can be flexible – including evening and Saturday hours – to accommodate individual schedules.
“There has never been a greater need for foster families,” adds Christine. The number of children who need help is increasing while plans are under way to close shelters.
Anyone who feels they might have what it takes to make a lifelong difference in a child’s life can call Choices for Life at 918-248-4340 Monday through Friday between 8:30 and 5.
For more information, contact
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.