Eckerd Kids’ Group Home Diversion and Transition program is a unique program in Oklahoma that works with older youth who are placed in group homes or in shelters awaiting group home placement. The goal is to help them transition back to the community. Back in 2013 two brothers who were then age 15 and 16 and had been in a youth shelter for 10 months were assigned to the program. No foster home would take these boys who had been abandoned by their mother and were found living alone on the streets. Both had behavioral issues. The 16 year old had previously spent some time in detention and was diagnosed with Asperger’s. The 15 year old had multiple inpatient stays before his mother left. Eckerd’s group home diversion worker discovered that the boys were attending a youth group at a local church. The youth group leaders, Jaime and Aaron, were shocked when the boys were moved to a shelter across the state due to overcrowding. The couple worked with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to return the boys to Tulsa so they could return to the support of their church. They wanted to know what else they could do. Eckerd’s Group Home Diversion staff got them in touch with the staff in Eckerd’s Therapeutic Foster Care Program.
Jamie and Aaron went through the training and certification process. In January 2014, they became Eckerd’s third Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) home in the state of Oklahoma and took the boys into their home. The boys had a tough adjustment as they were not used to following rules. Both had mood swings and anger outbursts. The younger brother had a significant issue skipping school before placement and it was a hard habit to break. The older brother was 17 but only had enough credits to qualify as a sophomore. This young couple, and first time foster parents, made the commitment to be the parents these boys needed. They closely monitored internet and social interactions, monitored school attendance and grades, and most of all – let the boys know that they were loved. The family very early on started talking about adopting the boys, but the older brother did not see the value in being adopted after turning 18.
Jamie and Aaron did not give up on the boys and would not let them give up on themselves. The older brother attended regular school during the day and a credit recovery program from 4 to 7 pm. He completed two years’ worth of credits in a year and half and took the ACT scoring above average. On May 22, 2015 because of the work of these foster parents and the support of two Eckerd programs, this young man graduated from high school with his peers. He has been accepted into a local community college and has a lease signed on his first apartment. His younger brother, now 16, has improved his school attendance and performance. He finished the 2015 school year with all grades a C or better. More importantly, he will be adopted by the couple in June. Two years ago, these were troubled youth with an uncertain future. Today they have their second chance. One is starting college, one has a new forever family.
At Eckerd, we are always activity recruiting and training loving foster parents like Jamie and Aaron. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent and opening your home to a child in need of a second chance, please www.eckerd.org/foster.