OKLAHOMA CITY -- Foster parents in Cherokee County have partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) and the faith community to establish a foster parent 'co-op.'
The idea behind the co-op is to provide a place where community partners can drop off donated items for foster parents. Items include baby strollers, clothing, toys, stuffed animals and car seats. The United Methodist Children's Home 'Circle of Care,' located in Tahlequah, graciously provides storage space for the donations. The group currently needs diaper bags in order to provide a 'baby kit' containing diapers, wipes, formula and bottles for babies placed in foster homes.
Dana Rogers, DHS child welfare specialist, says the foster parents are excited about putting this project together.
"This co-op is being run by the foster parents," says Rogers. "We helped them get the ball rolling and coordinated the first donation with Karen Jacobs at DHS and Alyson Walker with the South Tulsa Baptist Church."
Jacobs is Coordinator of the DHS Office of Community and Faith Engagement.
"Without the help of our faith-based partners, we could not serve nearly as many Oklahomans," says Jacobs. "The collaborative efforts by the faith community and the donations they provide are true blessings."
The co-op also features a support group to provide foster families with a forum where they can share their concerns, ask questions, and develop relationships with other foster families. The church offers child care services while foster parents attend the support group meetings.
Charlotte Dillard works for Circle of Care and says the co-op will be very helpful to foster parents in the area. Dillard has fostered ten children since December 2011 and is in the process of adopting a child. She says fostering children is one of the most important things she has ever done.
"When I started going through the process to adopt a child, my caseworker, Lyn Henderson, asked me if I would be willing to become a foster parent," says Dillard. "I wasn't sure I could give up a child once I got them. But honestly, it's been great and I've never looked back. This has changed my whole life."
For more information about how to become a foster parent, call the Bridge Family Resource Center at 1-800-376-9729 or visit okbridgefamilies.com.