Wagoner County Farm A Positive Alternative For Foster Children
WAGONER COUNTY, Oklahoma - Oklahoma has struggled with its foster care system for years. A recent class action lawsuit settlement ordered the state to eventually close its shelters and increase the number of foster homes.
Two agencies are trying to help make sure that happens.
If you visit the Oh Be Joyful Farm south of Coweta in Wagoner County, you'll be greeted by several animals.
About three years ago Brad Johnson and his wife moved to the area and since then have used the farm as a way of giving kids in the DHS system a different kind of experience.
"The workers tell us these kids get out here and they act different 'cause they're not cooped up," Brad said.
They invite the kids out for a few hours on the farm. They play with the animals, fish and, later this summer, they may be able to pick and even sell blackberries that will grow.
There are also two homes on the property that are being leased to a couple of foster families.
"Right now there are five fosters, two of their own biological kids and one on the way," said Brad.
Grant Johnson and Eckerd, a national nonprofit family service organization based in Florida, is partnering with the farm to try to expand on its success and find more foster homes. The task is enormous.
"In Oklahoma there are over 12,000 kids in shelters, group homes and in foster homes all over the state," Grant said.
His company's expertise is in finding, training and retaining foster families.
Maybe the farm and its animals can help get the children and potential foster families together.
Ultimately the goal is to eliminate the need for state run shelters.
"The bottom line is get ‘em out of there, get 'em into homes," Brad said.
If you are looking for more information about becoming a foster parent or about how Eckerd or Oh Be Joyful Farm might help, you can visit their website.