By: Deanna Rebro | Category: Special Interest | Issue: May 2009
At Choices for Life Foster Care, Greg Stiver, Charlotte DeMarais, Lisa Prescott, Stephen Barton, (seated) Donna Bonds and Maria Carter provide support for foster parents to make a difference in a child’s life.
It’s hard to imagine, but there are kids who are abandoned by their parents and locked in a room for days without food. Many children face the challenge of not being able to walk or talk like their peers. Fortunately, there are people who open their homes and hearts to these children, in order to turn their young lives around. This transformation is real. It happens when the neediest children in the DHS system feel a sense of security and well-being in loving homes with families that care about them.
It’s not an easy task. It takes patience. It takes love. It takes an open mind. And it takes strength. For some people, it’s a way of life.
The value of a good foster home is priceless. Children and youths in therapeutic foster care have more contact with foster parents than anyone else. They are the primary agents of change in the lives of these children. Their love and care allow these young people to go back to their biological families or into the world with everything they’ll need to succeed.
In May, Choices for Life Foster Care, located at 724 S. Mission in Sapulpa, will join the National Foster Parent Appreciation effort to honor foster parents. A special appreciation dinner is planned, as well as a parents’ night out and other surprises. It’s an opportunity to recognize the generosity and commitment of foster parents and to raise awareness about the need for more families who are willing to open their homes and hearts.
Unlike traditional foster care, Choices for Life focuses on children with a higher level of emotional and behavioral needs. They take children between the ages of 3 and 18 from overcrowded DHS shelters and provide them with the therapeutic treatment they need but would not receive in traditional foster care.
Each child is carefully evaluated and then matched with a strong and stable foster family who will integrate that child not only into their family, but also into their community, school and church. Treatment families create opportunities to heal, grow, develop and adapt into society.
Lisa Prescott, Choices for Life trainer and placement coordinator, recruits and trains foster families. She tries to prepare them for what to expect during the six months to many years ahead. They meet for two hours each week for eight weeks before receiving pre-certification. There is no charge for the training.
Last year 13 new families accepted the challenge and each took in one, two – even three children. Two children have been legally adopted by their foster parents, and four more adoptions are in process.
The national agency, with offices in Oklahoma City, Checotah, Ponca City and Sapulpa, as well as in Georgia, provides financial reimbursement and periodic rest and relaxation weekends for the foster parents. Ongoing training and support are also provided as well as individual, family and group sessions, where they have the opportunity to talk with people who have been there. Crisis services are on hand 24/7. Whatever the question or problem, someone is there to help.
Stephen Barton, clinical supervisor, visits foster families throughout Rogers, Mayes, Tulsa and Wagoner counties. One of the highlights of his job is for kids to tell him how they have reached for their goals in scouting, sports, cheerleading, JROTC or vo-tech schooling, and achieved them. Given the opportunity, they can experience many of the things that most kids take for granted. “CFL works with foster parents and biological families to bridge together for the child’s best interests. The kids have set goals for themselves, taken responsibility, and done it,” says Stephen.
A new foster care class begins in July. If you would like to make a lifelong difference to a child or youth, call (918) 248-4340 Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
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.