At the end of the 2019-20 state fiscal year, there were more than 8,600 children in foster care in Oklahoma. Some of the hardest to place are those in sibling groups.
Anna’s House Foundation is a faith-based organization whose mission is to provide immediate, stable, and loving homes for Oklahoma County’s children in state custody. AHF desires to offer a future of hope and faith to foster children and foster families by providing housing, support, training, and resources in a Christian community setting. They provide an exceptional, personal network of support for families in Oklahoma County and contingent counties caring for children in foster care, focusing on the unique needs children share.
Of the approximately 8,600 Oklahoma children in foster care, about 2,000 live in Oklahoma County, and over half of those are under the age of six. There are approximately 2,000 traditional foster homes statewide and fewer than 500 in Oklahoma County. Fifty percent of foster children are moved more than three times during their time in foster care, and 50% of siblings are separated and placed into different foster homes upon entering the foster care system. Anna’s House Foundation seeks to keep sibling groups together by placing them with the same foster family when possible.
One such family is the Love family. The Loves began fostering when their biological daughter was 18-months-old. The mom, Nicole Love, said that she felt God leading them to become foster parents. They did not begin their fostering journey with Anna’s House and, unfortunately, did not have a good experience. When they found Anna’s House, Nicole said, “They were so warm and welcoming, encouraging us every step of the way.”
Anna’s House told the Loves about a sibling group of four children, ages one, two, three, and six. The children had first been placed in four different foster homes. None of the children were potty trained, including the six-year-old, who was also non-verbal. At first, the Loves declined to foster this family because “I felt I wasn’t qualified for a special needs child,” Nicole explained. “But I couldn’t get these kids out of my mind.”
So, they welcomed these four children into their home. When the children arrived, they were all in dirty diapers and with only the clothes they were wearing.
Anna’s House supported the Loves by providing supplies, as well as emotional support through texts, phone calls, and visits. Nicole said she would not have continued fostering without this support.
A short time after the four arrived at the Loves’ home, they learned that the biological mother was expecting another child they also welcomed into their home.
They adopted all five children in December 2019. All the children are doing well. The oldest, “B,” is still mostly non-verbal, but is in speech therapy and she was recently potty trained. When she first joined the Loves, she was evaluated at a 15- to 18-month cognitive level. She is now, “doing amazing,” according to Nicole.
“I wish more people were open to fostering sibling groups. Yes, it’s hard and it’s messy, and that’s OK,” Nicole said. “What people don’t realize is that their behaviors get better when the kids are together. We need to normalize the messy and hard.”
The financial and emotional support Anna’s House Foundation provides financial support for their foster families is key to a foster family’s success. They also provide Christmas gifts for the children, a back-to-school party with backpacks full of school supplies, and other activities.
Nicole said, “I’m no one special. If I can do it, so can anyone.”
As with all nonprofits, Anna’s House needs financial support as well as volunteers and, of course, foster families. Their four-year goals include doubling the number of children they serve from 120 a month to 240 a month and increasing their number of foster families from 60 to 100. They also plan to add counseling services for the children and families.
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About Laura Gamble
Laura is President of Redbud Advisory Group, a consulting company that she founded in 2016. Redbud, whose tagline is, “First I listen”, provides a myriad of consulting and professional development services to non-profit and small business leaders. She is a certified life coach and holds certifications in non-profit management and DISC Behavioral Analysis.