TULSA — Once a child has been taken from his home because of abuse or neglect, the youngster's path to safety is complex.
A group of women from Tulsa area churches recently traveled the route these young individuals must take as part of a special trip designed by 111 Project leaders. The project was created with the goal of recruiting 111 or more foster families from church congregations in Oklahoma.
Recently, 13 pastor's wives and women ministry leaders took “A Child's Journey Into Foster Care” bus tour to learn more about the foster care
Robin Jones, director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said she was the lead adult host for the group, while a 13-year-old girl who has been a foster child (and has been adopted), served as the youth host.
Jones said the group traveled to the Tulsa Child Abuse Network; the Laura Dester Children's Center, an emergency shelter; Tulsa County juvenile court and Youth Services of Oklahoma County.
“They were emotionally engaged and motivated to see where they fit in the foster care issue,” Jones said of the group's
She said the idea behind the tour was to give the women some perspective about what children go through after they are placed in state custody and moved into the foster care system.
“It was a very strategic move to have these women of influence on the tour. They had the ear of the leaders of the church,” Jones said.
One woman in the group said the tour was “eye-opening” and “life-
Manita Forney, of Broken Arrow, said she and her husband, the Rev. Richard Forney, and their three children recently added two youths from their church, east Tulsa's New Joy Fellowship, to their family. She said she found that being a foster parent can be difficult. Manita Forney said the tour and the people that she met on the journey let her know that others have experienced similar difficulties and that children still need the community's help.
“I thought ‘the Holy Spirit set this up,'” Forney said.
“I said ‘I'm sorry God that I was not able to see beyond the sacrifices that we had to make.'”
Forney said she has not been able to stop talking about the tour and what she learned. She said she hopes other congregations take the time to learn how they can help the many young people in the foster care system.
“When I think of those little kids that were there,” Forney said, describing her visit to the Laura Dester Children's Center. “We don't have enough Christian people to take them in and provide a home and Christian love for them?”
Jones said 111 Project leaders hope to offer a similar tour in the Oklahoma City metro area.