In June of 2013, I was transporting a child in foster care from Midwest City to Norman. On this particular trip, we drove through Moore, Oklahoma just weeks after the devastating tornado ripped through the area. Only the faint rumbling of my engine could be heard as we passed by the Warren Theatre on I-35. We were both in complete silence, as we were surrounded by widespread devastation. What used to be people’s businesses, homes, and community, was now what looked like a large dump-yard of completely wrecked and mangled piles of concrete, metals, and wood. As I was looking out of my passenger side window, I happened to notice that the youth I was transporting had tears rolling down her cheeks. “Pretty overwhelming…” I said. “Ya,” she said, wiping the tears off her face with her sleeve. “It’s just so sad. All of these people with their homes destroyed.” And then she said words that will be etched in my memory for a very long time:
“Where will all these people go? Where will they live?”
Why did these words affect me so much, you may ask? This was a young lady who had been in foster care for nearly her entire life. Much like the tornados that rip through Oklahoma, leaving devastation in its path, children who are placed in foster care are often impacted in very similar ways.
They are ripped away from their homes and temporarily or permanently separated from their parents, siblings, friends, schools, and pets. This experience that is beyond their control also destroys their sense of safety, security, and often breeds new forms of fear and anxiety. Like tornados, kids in foster care often experience deep sorrow and traumatic memories that can torment them for years.
Much like the tornado victims in Moore, foster children are also faced with the gut-wrenching questions of “Will I ever be safe again?” and “Where will I live now?” as they are often tossed around in the F5 activity of foster care: bouncing around from foster home to foster home, inpatient facilities, group-homes, and the like.
I now work with Eckerd, a national non-profit family service organization that recruits, trains, and provides ongoing support for foster families all over Oklahoma. Over a year ago, Eckerd partnered with White Fields to help provide foster homes for boys who were stepping down from the Group Home level of care. In only a few short months, we were able to witness some great success attributed to this wonderful collaboration. We’ve seen two young men enter White Fields from the highest and most challenging levels of care, work through their programs with White Fields, and be placed in Therapeutic Foster Care level homes. But it doesn’t stop there; two of these boys are now stepping down into the lowest level of foster care possible for them, which is effectively Traditional Foster Care!
White Fields’ unique facilities, robust services, and educated and dedicated staff and volunteers provide opportunities for a variety of emotional, social, and behavioral healing and transformation to occur. White Fields’ efforts not only allow these boys to be “ready” for a safe, loving, and well-supported foster family, but their programs and services help them thrive!
In this field of work, there is only one greater reward than getting to be a part of the healing process and watching children turn into successful, healthy, and happy young adults, and that is being able to see youth make unbelievable progress and victory over trauma, and then find a loving, caring family to belong to. With this exceptional collaboration, there is absolutely no hesitation to the question when asked about White Fields’ boys, “Where will they live?” Every boy at White Fields is able to cling to the fact that amidst the storms and chaos in their past and present, they know they will have a loving adult, and a place to call home, forever.
Grant Johnson, Community Outreach Innovator and Resource Recruiter