By HOLLY McCRAY
The Circle of Care’s vision to help more foster children is newly focused on Ardmore, Enid, Shawnee, and Stillwater.
The United Methodist-affiliated agency yearns to extend its care ministry to meet the great need for foster homes statewide. While this expansion reaches into four cities, the agency hopes other communities soon follow.
Members of the Board of Directors recently issued a special appeal, pledging themselves to match up to $20,000 in donations.
In response, Circle of Care received the promise of $69,000 if funds are raised to match that amount. The board’s challenge was answered by a challenge!
The new goal is to raise $17,250 in each of the four cities – a total of $69,000.
Combined with the matching grant, from the Milburn family of Shawnee, the funds will enable COC to hire four recruiters, one for each city, to establish foster care homes there.
President Don Batson is excited about expanding the agency’s foster care support services well beyond the state’s two major urban centers. He noted with gratitude the generous support of COC by churches throughout Oklahoma.
More than 11,000 children entered state custody in 2013, according to the Department of Human Services.
"If you’re a child removed from your home in Shawnee, but no foster home is available in Shawnee, you go, perhaps, to Tulsa," said Mike Slack, COC development director. "If you are in school, you are removed from your class, friends, and teacher; if you are in church, from your Sunday School; if you play soccer, from your team."
Slack said a child entering state custody may not even be allowed to take along a pillow. Law officers carry kid-sized scrubs so children have some clothing.
Foster care brings "such dramatic change," he said. "If we can keep kids in their local community, they can maintain some ties. It’s so important."
Money raised through the appeal will fill a funding gap, Slack explained.
COC has a DHS contract to provide foster care support services across the state. COC can recruit, train, and walk with new foster parents through state certification. These steps can take several months.
However, state funds do not cover the agency’s costs until 12 to 15 foster homes are operating in a community.
The matching grant gifts will close that funding gap.
"The United Methodist Church, through the generosity of people like the Milburn family, is really leading in the state in the recruitment of foster homes," Slack said.
Circle of Care’s foster care services also extend beyond that step.
The Child SHARE program continues to reach out through a host of resources, holds holiday parties, maintains clothing co-ops, and more. Church members also volunteer their help with these.
"Through the support of local congregations, we wrap these families and these kids in love and support and compassion, which they need because they’ve been in traumatic situations," Slack said.
Find more: www.circleofcare.org.
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