POSTED ON NOVEMBER 22, 2006:
Open Your Hearts to "Christmas for Kids"
UTW's Campaign for gifts to children in DHS foster is nearing midpoint and the needs are greater than ever
Now in its third week, our Christmas for Kids Campaign is off to a great start. By deadline, caring Tulsans had claimed 57 of the 100 children on our tree, on the opposite page, left.
Because we received such a strong response so early in the campaign, we've added 25 children to the "Giving Tree" list.
The need is great, but our readers' generosity last year was more than sufficient to help make the difference in providing Happy Holidays to a group of children whom are typically forgotten this time of year.
We have set our goal a bit higher this year, hopefully, we'll meet the challenge of providing gifts of their choice for 125 local children in DHS foster care.
We can't thank you enough, dear readers, but at the same time we continue to stress the need these children face. We ask you to continue to overwhelm us with your generosity and force us to add more children to our list, exceeding our goals and our expectations. We have four more weeks to go in our campaign, and we definitely don't want to stop at 125.
Our campaign, in conjunction with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, provides Christmas gifts for children and teenagers living in temporary and permanent foster care.
DHS hopes to provide gifts for the 1,400 children living in the Tulsa County Shelter, foster homes, group homes, in-patient settings, contracted settings and reunified homes.
Last year, UTW exceeded its goal of 100 gifts donated by providing, with our readers' help, gifts for 106 children and an additional $1,500 in gift certificates for teenagers. This year, we expect Christmas will be bigger and better than ever for these children.
Donna Hendrix, OKDHS Child Welfare Volunteer Coordinator, said that, though the state provides funds for the daily needs of children in foster care, none is available for Christmas gifts, and foster parents who provide homes to these children cannot always afford Christmas gifts.
That's where we come in, Tulsa. This year, with the generosity we've already seen, we expect many more than 106 children will be served. At this point, we're only 43 away from our original goal of 100, and we expect to provide many more gifts than that.
How to Give
Every week you'll see a Christmas tree decorated with numbers representing a child in DHS custody. Alongside the child's corresponding number is his or her Christmas wish list (confidentiality is required in these situations, hence a number rather than the child's name).
Choose one or two gifts to buy, then bring them to Urban Tulsa Weekly's offices, at 710 S. Kenosha. Do not wrap the gift, but affix somewhere the number of the child for which the gift is intended.
If you'd rather, you may also buy non-specific but oft-requested gifts and bring them to our offices unwrapped. Gifts that are always needed include car seats, dolls, infant toys, pre-school educational toys, bicycles and tricycles, games, remote control vehicles, sleeping and overnight bags, bath/body items, cassette/CD players and radios, electronic hand-held games, sports equipment and jewelry.
Sometimes overlooked in campaigns like these are the needs of older children in DHS custody, who tend to want and need clothes, music and make-up. For these children and others, DHS recommends buying gift certificates to Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's, Ross, Gordman's, Old Navy, or Woodland Hills or Promenade Mall.
Last year, we were overwhelmed with the generosity of our readers, who not only provided fantastic gifts for these children, but also took extra initiative, such as including an abundance of batteries when the toy required it.
Christmas Is A-Coming
The deadline to make your donation is December 12. Please bring all donations to our offices at 710 S. Kenosha in downtown Tulsa between 7th and 8th Streets. For information or inquiries, call 592-5550 and ask for Siara or Nancy or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, with "Christmas for Kids" as the subject.
In addition to but separate from the "Christmas for Kids" Campaign, UTW will spend the month promoting adoption awareness for children in permanent foster care, with children available for adoption showcased each week. The photos of the children (which are different from the children on the Christmas tree) are provided by Waterworks Photography, who formed a partnership with DHS to provide exposure of children who have been in foster care for an extended amount of time and are in need of good homes.
The photos you'll see are part of a photographic exhibit called "The Heart Gallery Exhibit," which will travel the state to offer various communities an opportunity to get to know children who are in need of adoption. Each of the professional photographers who shot the exhibit got to know the children they photographed in order to represent their true spirits in the photographs.
Right now and through December 31, the exhibit is on display at the Shawnee Mall in Shawnee. From there, it will move to the Marland Mansion in Ponca City.
If you are interested in finding out more about adoption or adopting one of the children seen in Urban Tulsa Weekly, contact Jane Eneff at DHS, 581-2552.
We urge you to open your hearts and pocketbooks this holiday season and assist our children in having a very merry Christmas.
(First sidebar with pictures of children free for adoption)
Home is Where the Heart Is
Meet Daniel W.
Daniel is a typical 13 year-old who enjoys playing on the computer, playing video games and going to church. Daniel has a wonderful sense of humor and loves to make others laugh, and he would love to be a part of a two-parent or single-parent home.
Meet Tory T.
Tory is a three year-old bundle of joy who smiles continuously and enjoys the attention of others around her. She is bright and pleasant, and needs a family who will be strong advocates and provide a stimulating and nurturing environment.
Meet Quintrell, Nakesha and DeAndre C.
Quintrell, Nakesha and DeAndre, 14, 10 and 12, respectively, would like a home where they can all stay together in a city with lots to do. All three are friendly, comical and active and enjoy roller skating and spending time with friends.
One Family's Story
From beginning, to middle and end, it's a classic narrative of love
By Holly Wall
The coming holiday season will be especially exciting for Ron, Susan and Raegan Tremblay---it is their first Thanksgiving and Christmas with newest addition to the family, two-year-old Logan.
The Tremblays recently finalized their adoption of Logan through the Oklahoma Department of Human Service's Swift Adoption Program. After their daughter Raegan, 9, was born, Susan and Ron tried to conceive again but were unable to.
They wanted Raegan to grow up with siblings as they both had, so they chose to adopt, and after consulting with several different agencies, they decided DHS adoption was the best way for them to go.
The process began when they scheduled an appointment with a caseworker from DHS whom they invited to visit their home, getting to know them. They were required to fill out an extensive amount of paperwork and submit to background checks. They were also required to take 27 hours of DHS "parenting classes," which weren't necessarily classes to teach parents to take care of their children, but to inform them of how the state adoption and foster programs worked, giving the Tremblays a newfound respect for the system.
Then there was the homestudy; a caseworker visited the Tremblays' home a number of times and interviewed all three members of the family.
Ron and Susan had only a couple of requirements for the child they wanted to adopt, and they say Raegan was instrumental in choosing whom she wanted for a brother or sister. Raegan wanted a younger sibling, and she preferred a brother. There were other options, too.
"They have a checklist that you go through of what you're open to. It has everything from physical and emotional things that the parents may have experienced, and you can check 'yes' you are open to it; 'no' you aren't; or 'it's negotiable'. The caseworker went through it with us and helped us fill it out," said Susan.
For instance, the Tremblays had to decide whether or not they were open to adopting a child whose parents had tested HIV positive, or who had a history of drug dependence or who abused their child.
Susan explained that every month caseworkers representing children waiting for adoption and those representing families wishing to adopt have meetings where the children's caseworkers read brief biographies of the children they are trying to place.
"We were lucky that the same time Logan's case was being brought forward for the first time was also the first time our case was available.
"So, I mean, realistically, your caseworker could go for several months without hearing a case that you would be interested in," said Susan.
When a caseworker hears a child's case with whom they think they have parents who would be a good match, they give the parents' case to the child's caseworker. Susan said there were more than 100 homestudies presented to Logan's caseworker.
Ron said he and Susan had been thinking about adoption for a long time, but didn't decide to begin the process until last Christmas. After the Tremblays were chosen as a match, Logan visited with them three times, once at the foster family's house and then two in their own home.
"Within a month of reading his file and doing these visits, he was placed with us," said Susan.
Logan was temporarily placed with the Tremblays, with a caseworker visiting periodically to see how he was adjusting in the home.
Usually, it takes six months to finalize the adoption once a child is in the home, but for the Tremblays it only took about six weeks. Six months would have been Dec. 26, but the family wanted him to be a permanent part of their family before Christmas.
It took nearly a year for the Tremblays to go through the process of adopting Logan; it only took ten minutes to finalize the adoption.
The Tremblays will admit, though, their case is the exception and not the rule. The process normally takes much longer than a year, and the Tremblays considered themselves lucky that everything seemed to fall into place for them.
It was like Logan was meant to be a part of their family all along. And it's kind of funny, but Logan and Raegan even resemble each other.
And Raegan enjoys having a little brother. Or, as she says, "It's cool."
Susan says they get along well together; Raegan reads to Logan, helps him develop his speech and vocabulary, and they've even begun to bicker and fight like typical siblings.
Because Logan was placed in the state's custody at birth and in their home at 18 months-old, Ron and Susan aren't too worried about developmental or emotional disabilities. He does have a breathing condition similar to asthma that he's being treated for and should grow out of, and for a while, there was some concern that he wasn't developing on pace, but now Ron and Susan say he's right on track and is a normal, healthy, happy two-year-old.
They had a wonderful experience adopting Logan, dispelling many misconceptions about adoption, especially DHS adoption. The state could not have been more helpful throughout the process, they said, and they're happy to finally have another Tremblay in their home.
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