WE ARE CHANGING OUR STYLE…NOT CHANGING OUR HEART’S!
By Colleen Fowler
So the announcement has been made. Oklahoma Lions Boys Ranch is closing their two group homes…
But wait! The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, is that we are transitioning to a foster-community style of care. Most folks only heard the first part and are upset, sad, confused, and wondering what happened. Here is the story from me, a houseparent who is intimately involved with this change. For the past few years, DHS has been under the gun to make changes according to the plan laid out after the lawsuit they had brought against them. Part of that directive was to get kids out of shelters and group homes and into foster care where they could be part of a family, work on other adoption issues or age out with support.
Amazingly, we at the OLBR had that same idea over 5 years ago! I was at the planning retreat then where the idea of a Foster Care Community for us was born. Our goal was and always will be to provide the best possible life experiences for those children and youth displaced from biological homes. Our goal was to keep sibling groups together, to be the first line of care when a child is placed in foster care and to provide loving, stable family relationships in which to thrive and succeed. Don’t get me wrong, the group homes of the Cedars and Meadows have done great work and have been successful in helping many young men grow and graduate and become independent citizens…but why limit it to that. It also is becoming increasingly expensive to care for youth in these settings and the reality is that we can do a better job by changing our style of care. Certain limitations and regulations are part of a level C group home in the DHS system. Our belief is that we can and must do a better job of serving our kids and community by making sure we provide the best for everyone. Change is painful and frightening. We have worked tirelessly to make sure what is best for each individual resident and staff member has been or will be addressed.
We have begun building our Foster Care Community called “Meadows of Hope”. Two houses are completed and will be up and running in a few weeks. More houses are in the process of being built as we speak and we will continue the quest to build more homes and recruit loving trained parents to live there and care for many children boys and girls of all ages. Not every youth in our care now is eligible for foster care, nor would it be appropriate. Some have special needs that require more support and professional care than a foster home could provide, some are in the process of adoption and others will transition to our foster community while others are preparing to graduate and progress to Independent Living Programs.
NO ONE IS GOING TO BE ABANDONED!
Everyone, including staff, has been thoughtfully cared for by the Board of Directors and Administration and a plan for each has been presented as they transition. Some are retiring, going back to school, moving on to new endeavors or transitioning to become a part of the Foster Care Community. This community will build relationships between the Foster families and includes plans for a community garden, joint family activities and the support needed in dealing with tough situations. These parents will have the support of OLBR family services and TFI a group that is helping recruit, train and place parents and children together. Our goal to provide the best care has not changed. Our commitment to our kids has not changed, our desire to be a part of the Perkins community has expanded and the desire to serve is more alive than ever. Change is never easy…sometimes hard to understand and accept. But change in this life is inevitable and we must do what is best for the children and youth we serve. Please before you panic…contact us and let us walk you through the days ahead. Our style of care is transitioning for the better and be assured we have changed our style…not changed our hearts!