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Daniel Moore is not a typical foster parent. A single dad with three adopted sons, he’s been fostering for 14 years, and is currently a professional foster parent and ranch foreman for Circle of Care’s Boys Ranch Campus in Gore, a small town about 150 miles east of Oklahoma City.
Including his current role as a professional foster parent, traditional foster care and time as a house parent for residential care, he’s fostered more than 135 boys. He credits much of his ongoing passion for fostering to Circle of Care.
“I love what I do and the lives that I watch transform in my home,” said Moore. “I am not sure that I could have made the journey this far without the support I havereceivedfrom Circle of Care.”
Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care assists children and families in crisis through its foster care services, preparation for adult living program for teens, community outreach and the Pearl’s Hope shelter for women and children. The nonprofit organization works throughout the state and maintains several residential and community-based foster care sites.
Circle of Care began as a children’s home in Oklahoma City in 1917. First called the Oklahoma Methodist Orphanage, it is now the Children’s Home in Tahlequah, which provides campus-based foster care and preparation for adult living services. The United Methodist Boy’s Ranch was opened in Gore in 1963, and continues to operate as a working ranch, campus-based foster care and preparation for adult living site. The Holsinger Home in Enid opened in 1999 and also provides foster care in a residential setting. While unique to provide foster care in a campus-based atmosphere, rather than individual community homes, Moore attests that foster parents living in such an environment benefit greatly from ready resources and built-in support.
“In our community everyone shares a common passion—love for our kids,” said Moore. “We figure out difficult situations as a team, offering a helping hand when it’s needed. We help with supervision in tough times and we run errands for each other. Our kids all come from the same kind of background, so when we discuss things they are understood because we walk the same life. When you need support, everyone works together to help you find the things you need.”
In addition to maintaining its three on-site foster care programs, Circle of Care recruits and trains traditional foster parents, living in their own homes and communities, and serves as a foster placement agency. The organization currently has approximately 100 foster families across the state and is constantly working to recruit more. Foster care services are bundled under the name Child SHARE.
“Most foster parents become foster parents because they hear about it from someone they already know,” said Mike Slack, vice president development for Circle of Care, who often speaks at churches and community groups in hopes of sparking an interest in potential foster parents. “We typically highlight people from those local communities who are foster parents and have them share their experiences.”
Like any training and certification program in the state of Oklahoma, Circle of Care requires potential foster parents to have a background check and fingerprinting, undergo a home study to ensure the environment is safe and suitable for foster children and complete 27 hours of training. Once a Circle of Care foster parent is officially approved by DHS, Circle of Care remains a major player in its foster parents’ lives.
Supporting foster families
The financial and emotional burdens on foster families can feel astronomical, but Circle of Care helps meet those needs. Something as simple as sending a kid to camp can feel out-of-reach, but Circle of Care will reimburse up to $250 per foster child to its foster families to help pay for things like museum passes, camp registrations or athletic fees.
“Foster parent turnover is an enormous issue,” said Slack. “By supporting them, we have a much lower turnover rate.”
That support begins with a welcome basket delivered to every home when a child is placed. Because foster parents don’t typically have the time to gather the items their incoming children will need, and because foster children often arrive with only a few simple belongings in a garbage sack, the welcome baskets serve as way to make foster children feel safe and welcome right away, a “balm” Slack says. Goodies include an outfit, toys, a toothbrush, blanket and photo album to fill with pictures. Co-ops throughout the state are available for any foster parents to get clothing and other needed items for foster children, with no limit on the amount of goods they can choose, all free of charge.
Indicative of churches throughout the state, United Methodist Church of the Servant in Oklahoma City operates a car seat mission for local foster parents, purchasing a car seat anytime a foster child comes into their care who needs one. Trained volunteers at the church install each seat to safety regulations. As a United Way of Central Oklahoma partner agency, Circle of Care also has a fund to provide additional material support for foster parents.
“If we need a crib and we don’t have one donated, we use funds designated to support foster parents to do that,” said Slack.
Circle of Care actively recruits respite homes to provide care for foster children when foster parents need a break or have an emergency. Like traditional foster parents, respite caregivers are fully trained and approved by DHS.
Local churches host regular parents nights out for Circle of Care foster parents, providing free, quality childcare for all children in the home so foster parents can have a few hours to themselves.
Monthly support groups provide food and free child care, with opportunities for foster parents to share and learn from each other, receive training from experts on topics like trauma, parenting and challenging behaviors, and secure services from community resources.
“Circle of Care has set me with a support group that understands my passions and mission oflife,” said Moore. “They make sure there is plenty oftrainingoffered in the course of the yeartofulfillmy requirements, and thetrainingis important to my workwiththekids, like trauma’seffects on the human mind and how to work through difficult situations and behaviors.”
While Circle of Care doesn’t directly offer therapy or counseling services, the organizationworks closely with its families and DHS case workers to make recommendations and referralsfor services as foster children and families need them.
“They help findresourcesin the hard situations,” Moore said. “When you think you have run out of options for a kid, they help you find more.”
Every year, Circle of Care relies on local churches, organizations and individuals to fulfill itsfoster children’s Christmas wish lists through its Angel Tree program. An Easter party is heldannually, with a local church typically providing the venue, stuffed eggs, entertainment andrefreshments. As the start of school nears, Circle of Care collects school supply lists from itsfoster parents, presenting the items to the children at a back-to-school bash.
Join the Circle
Moore has seen a lot during his 14 years as a foster parent, and he’s the first to admit that it’s not easy: “I find it a challenge to keep emotions in check as you hear repeated stories from the children about their lives and hardships. It’s also a challenge when you see kids in your care make poor decisions based on loyalty to those who hurt them. Probably thebiggestchallengeof all isletting them go when it’s their time to go.”
However, Moore has found that the rewards far outweigh the challenging parts of the journey.
“I am still in touch with many of my kids, and they are contributing members of societyraisingfamiliesand breaking the circlestheycame from,” said Moore. “I find joy in the families who figure things out and fix what’s wrong, bringing my kids back to a better,saferenvironment.”
The way the organization cares for families wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community. Circle of Care needs churches, businesses, community organizations and individuals to help provide material goods, back-to-school supplies, Christmas gifts and monetary gifts to support its foster children and foster families. A current needs list is available at www.circleofcare.org/howtohelp/needslist/. Approved churches and organizations can provide childcare for a foster parents-night-out, or host one of Circle of Care’s holiday parties or special events. Volunteer opportunities are available at each of Circle of Care’s locations.
But Circle of Care, and the state of Oklahoma’s, biggest need is more foster parents, dedicated to helping children and families heal.
“There is no greater reward than to share God’s love, your love, with a young life, to help themfind hope and happiness, even for a moment, and to partner with families and teach them toovercome theirobstaclesand shareunconditionallove,” said Moore.
For more information about becoming a foster parent or volunteer with Circle of Care, call405-463-6626 or visit www.circleofcare.org.
Erin Page is a freelance writer, graphic designer and public relations professional based in Edmond. She is nationally accredited in public relations, and her professional experience spans the healthcare, tourism, nonprofit, educationand small business sectors.Her proudest achievements are being wife to Jordan and mom to 3-year-old Addie and 1-year-old Hutch. Her other loves include cooking, running and her Oklahoma State Cowboys.