TULSA, OKLA. -- A newly-constructed facility funded in part by a $2.14 million gift to the State of Oklahoma will open Dec. 3 to serve children in state custody. The official ribbon cutting for the new Laura Dester Children’s Center in Tulsa will be at noon, followed by an open house at 7318 E. Pine St. in Tulsa.
The project was funded by a combination of state and federal funds, bonds and private donations. The Tulsa Community Foundation gave $2.14 million from a community-wide capital and endowment campaign spearheaded by Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children. This was the largest gift of record given to OKDHS on behalf of Oklahoma children.
"When OKDHS began preparations to build a new children's shelter to replace the old, outdated Laura Dester Shelter, TAPC wanted to help," said Human Services Commissioner Aneta Wilkinson of Tulsa. "With the support of the special endowment campaign and very generous community-wide involvment, a team effort resulted in what is widely viewed as one of Tulsa's most important accomplishments."
The 48,200 square-foot complex on 20 acres includes four residential-style cottages, an administration/activity building, gymnasium, outdoor basketball court and play areas, security fencing and lighting. The cottages are designed to group residents by age in a home-like setting. Each child has an individual sleeping area and private bath. Outdoor recreation areas are developmentally appropriate for each age group and indoor common areas provide space for activities during inclement weather. Facilities include a 24-hour receiving center, nurse’s office, family visitation rooms, opportunities for learning, counseling, initial assessments and psychiatric services.
OKDHS representatives, numerous community citizens, architects and local and national childhood trauma professionals came together to help plan the shelter’s design and environment. The primary goal was to offer a safe, comforting, healing environment for children traumatized by abuse and neglect.
"Innocent children who have done nothing wrong themselves, but by necessity have been removed from their homes due to alleged abuse or neglect, will now have a comfortable, safe environment in which to begin their healling process," Wilkinson said. "We as citizens must care for these innocent children. This new shelter is for them. Every Tulsan should be proud today."
The buildings at the current shelter at 419 S. Quincy are more than 60 years old. They no longer meet the needs of children placed there for emergency care while in state custody, nor can the facilities be properly secured or modified to meet current construction codes.