Resource center helps provide for foster kids, families
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Sunday, May 13, 2012
5/24/12 at 3:40 PM
Related Story: Foster families give home to abused, neglected
A teenage boy walked into the Foster Family Resource Center with his arms crossed, frown on his face and a so-what attitude.
"What is it you're looking for?" asks a volunteer.
"I want my own clothes back," the teenager said.
He stepped into the room filled with racks of clothes and took an armful into the dressing room.
"Awesome," he yelled from behind the door.
Almost an hour later, he left with a sack over his shoulder filled with name-brand clothing to put into his closet at his latest foster home.
This was Maura Brown's vision for the nonprofit center.
"We don't want our kids to be stigmatized," she said. "We want them to feel good when they go to school or hang out with their friends."
Brown, the volunteer and resource coordinator for Tulsa County's office of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, created the center to help and encourage foster families.
Brown sought grant money and donations to open the store-like center at 3722 E. 51st St. two years ago. It is the only such resource center in the state and serves Tulsa County foster children and families.
The idea started when she was taking three young children to a kinship foster home in the dead of winter.
While the relative was a qualified and willing caregiver, she did not have any children's clothes, furniture, toys or other items normally found in a home with children.
"I knew we had to do a better job than this," Brown said. "Foster parents are the heroes here. They are the ones taking abused and neglected children into their homes at all times of the night and day. We need to help them."
The Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children - a nonprofit formed to assist and support DHS in Tulsa County - pays for the utilities and operational items, like racks and hangers, while Country Club Plaza donates the space. Furniture is stored at a donated space at the Park Plaza shopping mall.
All items are donated by individuals or nonprofit groups. Foster families often swap out items, similar to a co-op.
The center is divided into departments by age and category - toy room, shoe room, infant room, toddler clothes, book area, pajamas and teen section.
While donations are needed in all areas, there is a consistent demand for clothes in children's sizes 4-8 and for infant items such as car seats and strollers.
The teen section is a work in progress with Key Clubs from Booker T. Washington High School and the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences lending significant support.
Teen volunteers sort through the donations and toss anything they wouldn't wear or give to a friend. They plan to paint the section with a youthful motif and plan drives for donations teens need.
"Teens come in and it's like a shopping experience," said Kellie Gilpin, DHS resource coordinator.
Part of Brown's goal for the resource center is to get more people willing to be a foster family.
Kinship placements may be difficult if the foster family does not have the necessities to take in several children. Or, a foster family may be asked to care for a child of an age they hadn't prepared for.
"We want them to be in a happy placement," said volunteer Liz Brown.
Foster Care Resource Center
Where: 3722 E. 51st St.
Who: Served about 1,000 Tulsa County foster children last year
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
Call: For more information, call 918-742-4947
Donations are needed
Original Print Headline: Resource center helps provide for foster kids
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376
Jacinta Florence, a part-time resource center employee, hangs clothing at the Foster Family Resource Center on Wednesday. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World