Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Church hopes to match kids with foster families

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church outreach

WAYNESBORO — Sonya Payne remembers her best birthday ever.

It was in 2010, the day she legally adopted her foster daughter Ariel Simone Payne, 16.

Ariel wasn’t the first child that Payne has fostered. In fact, Payne estimates that she’s legally fostered 40 children since 1993, and taken in over 70, even if only temporarily.

“That’s why we call her superwoman,” said Ariel’s adoptive sister Taimonique Payne, 15 and a half years old.

Payne decided to become a foster parent while working with battered women, and seeing the effect it had on both the women and children.

“It was too much,” Payne said. “I told my husband, we have to do something to help these kids.”

She read about her first foster child in the newspaper in 1993 and the rest is history.

Even with families like the Paynes, there are still local children in the foster care system that do not currently have homes and are at risk of aging out of the system, which severely affects their chances of success once they become adults, said Jennifer Eccles, foster parent and member of the mission team at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro. There are 163 kids in foster homes locally, but 14 that don’t have somewhere to call home.

That’s why the church decided to hold a summit about foster care, with a panel of foster care workers, parents and adopted teenagers, to inform the community about the need for more participation in the foster care system.

The summit was Sunday afternoon and about 25 people attended, Eccles said.

“The church feels very strongly that we have a calling to help these kids in our community,” said the mom of six. “They need families.”

One of the main focuses of the summit was on the need for care for older children and children with siblings, specifically, Eccles said. Removing the stigma that older children come with more problems is key.

“This is not about bad behavior,” Eccles said of why children end up in the foster care system. “It’s because of abuse or neglect.”

Both Ariel and Taimonique spoke about being adopted and what they would tell other foster parents if they could.

“Never give up on your adopted kids,” Taimonique said. They may have difficult behavior and difficulty adjusting, but never to give up.

For more information about foster parenting call Jennifer Edson or Heather Hudnall at Shenandoah Valley Social Services at 540-245-5800.

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Foster Care Kids Out of Placement Because of Abuse and Neglect…

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too

There are about 150 children in Garfield County in and out of foster home placement because of abuse or neglect, but there are only 27 non-relative foster homes in the county.

A shortage of foster homes exists throughout northwest Oklahoma, and

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Normalcyvolunteers are needed to become foster parents.

Jason Cecil, director of regional recruitment services for TFI Family Connections, is looking for those willing to open their homes and help children.

“What we’re trying to do is a foster parent drive to recruit and retain foster parents, especially in Garfield County, but throughout various parts of northwest Oklahoma” Cecil said.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services privatized foster care services last year and has contracted with TFI Family Connections to find more foster parents.

Cecil said most communities without enough foster parents are seeing children in need of foster care going to foster homes several hours away from their biological parents, or being placed in shelters across the state.

He said those interested in becoming foster parents first need to contact TFI Family Connections through its website, http://www.tfifamilyservices.org/Oklahoma, or by calling (866) 543-9810.

“Once they do that, they will need to fill out an application and there will be a 27-hour foster parent training class that can be done with various schedules,” Cecil said. “We do criminal background checks, home assessments and home studies.”

Cecil said foster parents need to be a minimum of 21 years old and there is no upper-age limit.

“And they can be single,” he said, noting that marriage is not a requirement to provide foster care.

Foster parents receive a reimbursement from DHS of $400 to $550 a month. Foster children have health care provided via Sooner Care and daycare expenses are paid for by the state. Foster parents also received a yearly clothing allowance.

Foster children who are in need of mental health services will be allowed to get those services from various agencies, such as ATS Counseling-Focus Institute.

Cecil said there likely would be a foster class as early as the first of March.

“If people are interested, and feel this is something they want to do, they need to get a hold of us,” he said. “We would like to get eight to 10 families, but we’ll do a class with less.”

Becky Kroeker, director and licensed counselor with ATS Counseling-Focus Institute, said being able to have foster children closer to their homes and biological parents can prevent further trauma to the children.

“ATS offers a lot of programs which support DHS foster homes and foster children,” she said. “I think it’s important to have a partnership with Jason’s organization because of the large need to have loving foster homes in our community to help parent these children.”

Cecil said DHS is learning more toward a bridge foster family model, where the foster parent will mentor with a child’s biological family. The goal is to keep the children as close to home as possible.

“When you place these kids in southern Oklahoma, that relationship is broken,” Kroeker said. “There can be attachment problems with biological parents when there is not regular contact.”

She said further problems can be caused when caseworkers continue to move children from foster homes that are closer to their home.

“Disruptions can also be caused by children not being near their parents,” Kroeker said. “It’s in the child’s overall best interest for that child to be in their own community.”

Cecil added, “They need to be with a family and not with a shelter.”

“When we can work with the biological parents and a child in placement,” Kroeker said, “we have a better success rate when we’re able to work with everyone.”

“It’s not uncommon to see a kid with three or four placement moves before they are stable,” Cecil said.

He said many counties in northwest Oklahoma are in need of more non-relative foster homes. Cecil said foster parent classes will be hosted where there are interested families, and not just in the Enid area.

“We’ll go where the families are,” he said.

Classes can be conducted to meet the time needs of potential foster families.

“We can either do three days in a row or nine weekly three-hour sessions,” he said. “Whatever works best for the family.”

The classes cover lessons on topics such as appropriate ways to deal with behavior, self-care as a foster parent and how to work in a team-work approach.

Cecil said he is available to speak to church or civic groups that would like to hear a presentation about the process of becoming a foster parent and the need within their community.

Cecil can be reached by calling TFI Family Connections at (866) 543-9810, extension 3043.

Foster care contractor TFI Family Services is seeking foster parents

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Foster care contractor TFI Family Services is seeking foster parents for the Miami area.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) settled a class-action civil-rights lawsuit in 2011 against its foster-care system by agreeing to make improvements in targeted areas of the state’s child welfare system. As part of this settlement agreement, OKDHS is developing an improvement plan, called the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan, which will guide the agency in the years ahead as it works to make improvements in the way it cares for children in foster care.

OKDHS awarded contracts on Aug. 6 through June 30, 2014. with renewal options to private partnerships for the recruitment, support and retention of foster families as part of the plan.

Foster-care contracts were awarded to Angels Foster Family Network, Inc., of Oklahoma City, DCCA/Tall Grass Family Services of Lawrence, Kan., St. Francis Community Services of Tulsa, and TFI Family Connections, LLC of Emporia, Kan. The contract awards came after a second round of bids, the first in April canceled by DHS Director Ed Lake because of concerns over the prescriptive nature of the contracts, how service areas were defined, and the process not allowing provider input.

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In Ottawa County the number of available foster homes is limited. There are currently 44 children in foster care in the county and just 12 approved licensed foster homes. TIF will be serving the northeast area of Oklahoma, and is searching for anyone interested in fostering children.

TFI Family Connections representative Jason Cecil has been in the Miami area to begin recruiting efforts.

“There’s a pretty big discrepancy in the number of kids coming into the system compared to the number of foster homes,” Cecil said. “Some of those kids are placed with relatives, aunts , uncles, grandparents, or foster parents. If there isn’t an available foster home in Miami they will send them outside of Ottawa County. That’s our task to get more foster homes here. Our goal is to get enough homes in the area so that kid can stay in Miami.”

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The overwhelming lack of available foster homes in the area takes the community’s children in need out of their familiar surroundings, schools and churches, making an already difficult situation even more traumatic for the child.

The privatization of foster care in Oklahoma was also approved to help free case workers for more hours to work with the biological families toward the goal of reunification.

TFI Connections is a division of TFI Services in Kansas, which has a long history of providing foster homes there. With an office in Bartlesville, Cecil said TFI is now ready to provide the same service in Oklahoma.

“Our goal is to get enough families here to where we can hire a worker for here in Miami,” he said.

TFI foster families receive the services of dedicated, professional personal social worker/case workers, 24-hour on-call support, reimbursement payments, local monthly support meetings, free ongoing comprehensive training, multi-media resource library, respite services, liability insurance, and independent advocacy to support the home.

“With us they’ll have a worker assigned directly to their home to establish a rapport with that worker. Then you have somebody to contact when things aren’t going as they should,” Cecil said.

To qualifiy as a foster-parenting homes for TFI, you must:

  • 21 years of age with no maximum age
  • have a permanent residence
  • have an outside income source
  • complete training
  • pass OSBI background checks
  • pass a home study and inspection

“The first thing we do after they contact us is have them fill out a packet of information. Then we will put them in a class,” Cecil said. “It’s a 10-week class, one night a week, for three hours.”

Certified TFI foster parents fill out a profile, specifying preferences for fostering such as age, gender, sibling groups or children with disabilities.

“They have all the control,” he said.

There are no medical expenses. and clothing vouchers are given to assist TFI foster homes as well as reimbursements of $450 to $500 per month. There are no contractual obligations.

“We would encourage any family that has thought of fostering to go ahead and call,” Cecil said.

TIF is starting free classes on Aug. 29 at the First Christian Church 2424 N. Main St., Miami. Those interested can attend the classes or contact TIF at 800-279-9914 or www.tfifamilyconnections.org to learn more.