The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
12.04.2013

                   image

By: Holly Livengood, Marketing and Research Coordinator

I think we can all recall our favorite childhood memory of the holidays. For me it was baking cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve with my mom and waking up in the morning to see them all gone, I guess you could say my baking skills began at an early age. Unfortunately for more than 10,800 Oklahoma children in foster care, the holidays are a time that reminds them they are separated from their families which is a tough reality to face. While we can’t give these children their ultimate wish; to go home, we can remind them that they are not forgotten and to me, that is the ultimate gift. I challenge you to forgo your morning latte for the month of December and adopt a child’s wish list instead. I guarantee you the feeling you get from giving back is much better than the feeling any Peppermint Mocha could give. Your gift is more than just a toy or new clothing, it is a symbol of hope, a reminder that someone out there cares about them and that is what the holidays are all about. Share the love, adopt a child’s wish list today

A Year at CCC
09.19.2013

image

By: Holly Livengood (pictured top left), Marketing and Research Coordinator

What do you do? The age old question when you meet someone. A question I usually answer with “I’m just a modern day Mother Teresa,” to intrigue the other person. Then I share where I work and what we do. I was asked this question recently and as I answered I realized I have been doing what I do for a year. My Grandpa was right; time does fly when you’re having fun.

I first became involved with Citizens Caring for Children (CCC) as a mentor and saw firsthand how this organization helps not only children in foster care, but also the foster parents who care for them. So when I saw an open position at CCC, I jumped at the opportunity to work here. I remember my job interview quite well; in fact I recall telling our Executive Director that I would be the janitor for CCC if that’s what it took to work here. I’m a firm believer that experience can get anyone a job, but passion; passion is what keeps you there, especially when it comes to working for a nonprofit. Luckily, the janitorial position was already filled and I found my place as the Marketing and Research Coordinator.

In my first year at CCC, I have learned so much both professionally and personally. Learning about the child welfare system is an eye opening experience that I can say without a doubt I was not emotionally prepared for. I’ll be honest some days I want to crawl under my desk and cry, and some days I do, because I see an innocent child come to our Resource Center to shop and I can’t fathom how or why they are here in the first place. It’s a strange feeling to wish your job didn’t exist, and on these days I would give my three wishes to eradicate the need for foster care from our world forever.

Thankfully those days spent under the desk are few and far between.  I am fortunate to be able to say that I love my job. I have the opportunity to see how the work we do daily makes a direct impact. From seeing a child’s face light up when they put on their brand new pair of shoes, to reading stories from our Mentors about the breakthrough they made with their Mentee that month and the bond they will have forever, or a volunteer who sees the need for what we do each time they show up to sort clothes in the Resource Center to a board member who meets a child at our Back-to-School event and can’t bear to shop with her because it breaks his heart that she needs this service in the first place. These moments are what remind me that the work we do is important and inspire me to show up each day.

You’ll never really understand what we do at CCC until you visit the Resource Center or spend a few hours shopping with a kiddo who thanks you multiple times for something as simple as a pair of shoes. I see it every special event, people who after five minutes with these children have their eyes opened, hearts broken, and are hooked. We start to see them more often and in some cases they end up fostering children themselves.

I’m not entirely sure how a year has already passed, but as I reflect on my first year at Citizens Caring for Children I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from none other than Mother Teresa herself, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” It takes a village to raise a child, and we currently have more than 10,500 children in Oklahoma to show a different way of life. Please, get involved. Visit the Resource Center, volunteer at a special event, become a mentor. Do small things with great love. I give you my word, it will be the best thing you ever do.

Citizens Caring for Children Awarded iFund Opportunities for Children Grant
08.20.2013

image

Amy Mitchell, Citizens Caring for Children Executive Director accepts a $15,000 check from Cher Golding of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation

August 20, 2013 (OKLAHOMA CITY) – Citizens Caring for Children (CCC) is pleased to announce that a grant in the amount of $15,000 has been awarded by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. The funds will be used directly by CCC to help fund the Resource Center which is used to provide tangible items to more than 4,000 children and young adults living in foster care in Central Oklahoma annually.

Children and young adults living in foster care in Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, Grady, Lincoln, Logan and Pottawatomie counties are eligible to shop at the Resource Center four times per year. Each visit they receive two new outfits, a pair of shoes, socks, underwear, toiletry items and two books.  “We are excited to receive this generous grant from OCCF, which will allow us to serve more children and young adults in foster care,” Amy Mitchell, Executive Director said.

Founded in 1969, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation works with donors to create charitable funds that will benefit our community both now and in the future. The Opportunities for Children iFund grant represents a compilation of donations made by donors to benefit an organization offering direct services to individuals to help them continue to live independently. Two additional iFund grant programs provide support for organizations providing access to health care and services for elderly. For more information, please visit www.ifundokc.org.

Currently, there are more than 10,000 children living in Oklahoma’s foster care system. Citizens Caring for Children meets the unique needs of these children and young adults through our Resource Center and Mentor programs. Through our programs we are planting the seeds for a brighter future for children and young adults in foster care.

About Citizens Caring for Children

Founded in 1984, Citizens Caring for Children provides clothing, shoes, duffel bags, books, school supplies, mentors and other necessities to more than 4,110 children in foster care each year. Through programs and services including the Resource Center, Back-to-School, Joy 4 Kids and Mentoring, Citizens Caring for Children strives to make a difference in the lives of children in foster care each and every day. For more information, visit www.cccokc.org.

 ###

My Time with Citizens Caring for Children
08.13.2013

By: Nicole Stewart, CCC Intern

The social service field can be both heartwarming and heart wrenching.  I knew that I wanted my practicum work to be completed with an agency that focused on positive action relating to their service population.  Prior to my initial visit to Citizens Caring for Children, I was familiar with CCC’s name and the fact that they worked with children in foster care, but I was not aware of the details of their mission.

 The moment I walked into the Resource Center I was impressed.  The areas were kid friendly, with familiar decorations and bright colors.  The clothing area was like being in any retail store at the mall, except that the clothes were free of hefty price tags.  The library was full of books, and even had a video game console.  I was excited to visit and I could see why any child might also be excited to come shopping for his or her new clothes. Over the several weeks of my practicum time, I witnessed visits from children in foster care and their families, most of which were blended in nature.  I saw groups of kids from group homes, kids visiting with extended family members or foster parents, and some kids with kids of their own.  Sometimes, behavioral issues were on display.  Other times, kids were quiet and reserved.  Most times however, the children were excited to receive their new items.  I was reminded of the complex issues associated with foster care and glad to know that a place like CCC is available to serve those who are in need.

Through my work with CCC, I was able to visit the Pauline Mayer Youth Shelter, an emergency shelter for children who have been removed from their homes.  I had never been to a youth shelter and I was not sure what to expect. I was informed that most of these kids were in transition between their homes, foster care or group home.We spent the afternoon playing games and eating snow cones.  CCC brought toys and activities, and goody bags for all of the children.  I observed most of these children to be behaving as they should—like kids.  Underneath however, I knew there was much more going on.  Leaving the shelter was bittersweet, and I am still thinking of those children today.  Did they make it back to their homes?  Will they be visiting CCC with their new foster families?  Will they be back at the shelter one day?

Of course, we are all hoping for the best possible outcome for these children and others, and there are many.  In the short time I was there, the Resource Center served more than 300 children.  It would be an achievement for our state if those numbers could be lowered, but until that time, I am thankful that CCC is there to serve the children and their families.  And I am thankful that I was able to spend my time with such a worthy organization.

A Year At CCC
07.25.2013

By: Sandy Thomas, Resource Center Manager

image

Sandy Thomas shopping with a kiddo at CCC’s annual Back to School event on Saturday, July 20, 2013.

You know the old saying “time flies when you are having fun?” It really is true! I started this wonderful adventure with Citizens Caring for Children a year ago. Before that, I had no idea the impact that this wonderful organization had on the community, foster homes, other non-profits and honestly, me. I have seen more than 4,000 children in foster care visit the Resource Center this past year for new clothing, shoes and hygiene products.

Just being able to be a part of the reason a child can smile when they receive new clothing and shoes makes my heart happy! I have witnessed so many people wanting to do more to enrich the lives of children in foster care  and it’s amazing! From mentors to Joy 4 Kids helpers, volunteers in the Resource Center that help sort and stock our inventory, personal shoppers for the children, and the list goes on and on. I have even met some volunteers that had been children in foster care interact with the children currently in care. The trust between them was undeniable because they each knew what the other one was feeling and this gave the volunteer the chance to give back that unconditional love that was once given to them.

I love the group of women that I have the privilege to work with each day at Citizens Caring for Children.They only have the children’s best interest at heart and they work hard daily to make sure that every child we serve has the opportunity for a better life. If I can help to make a difference in just one child’s life to show them a brighter future is possible, then I have done a great job. 

I am so proud to tell others where I work and what we do. I am so glad that when one door closed for me a greater one opened!

Mustache Bash

Join Citizens Caring for Children and Shop Good as we celebrate the start of our new partnership at the fourth annual Mustache Bash! You can support Citizens Caring for Children by making a purchase or giving a direct donation at the Mustache Bash. A portion of proceeds from food, drinks, market goods and services will benefit CCC, and all money raised from mustache sales goes directly to funding our Resource Center. RSVP here,  we’ll see you August 8th!

CCC and the 111 Project
07.18.2013

By: Ben Nockels- Leader of the 111 Project

For the past several years I have been moving toward the center of the Foster Care issue. And at each step along the way I have been met by men and women, leaders and servants, agencies and organizations who have been faithfully and effectively serving the now more than 10,250 Oklahoma children who have entered into the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) for reasons of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. What began as a broad based attempt to mobilize the faith community on behalf of kids in Foster Care has developed into a series of strategic partnerships to more comprehensively address the many issues surrounding Foster Care and bring real and timely solutions to bear. The initial phases focused primarily upon raising awareness of the need for more and better Foster Families across the State. I am pleased to report that we have seen an increase of more than 700 new Foster Families of all types over the past year .Recognizing that many are not “called” to Traditional Foster Care, our efforts have expanded to include a number of ways that individuals and families can relationally engage the issue and enter into the life of a child or sibling group who have experienced at least some measure of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. What I have learned is that Foster Care isn’t an all or nothing zero sum game. We have to create space for people to explore the issue and participate in meaningful ways with varying levels of commitment. These children need an extended family, a village if you will, the community at large, to show up and support them in a myriad of ways.

One of the partnerships that we established early on was with Citizens Caring for Children (CCC) who has been “meeting the unique needs of children in foster care” for more than 25 years. We partner with CCC to present the faith community with the opportunity to enter into a mentoring relationship with a child in Foster Care. Speaking of “unique”, CCC is the only organization in Central Oklahoma equipped to certify and match a mentor with a mentee in Foster Care. This is such an invaluable service, one for which I am most grateful! When a child comes into Foster Care their little world is full of uncertainty and change. Often times the only person that remains the same throughout their time in Foster Care is their mentor. I’ve heard countless stories of young men and women who have survived their experiences and overcome their circumstances, they’ve beaten the odds! And the most consistent and oft-repeated element of each and every one of their stories is the consistent and stable presence of at least one significant adult in their life. A mentor! A citizen caring for children!

 

Ben Nockels is the visionary leader behind the 111 Project, a nonprofit committed to leaving no child without a family. For more information on the 111 Project visit 111project.org. For information on CCC’s Mentor Program click here and get involved today.

A Year at CCC
07.03.2013

image

By: Hillary Winn(Pictured left), Program Director

I remember coming across the job description for the Program Director at Citizens Caring for Children just a little over a year ago. Reading it, I remember thinking to myself that it is as if the position were written just for me. I have had a heart for children in foster care for as long as I can remember. I had grown up watching my mom work with this population and it had carried over to my own career aspirations.  I had worked as a child welfare worker and most recently, for a grant that focused on recruiting foster and adoptive parents. What drew me to Citizens Caring for Children, however, was that I felt a strong connection with the way we provide services. Every tangible item that is given to these children is done so in a thoughtful way that will increase their level of comfort, self-confidence, and sense of choice and ownership. Reading about the Back to School program on the website, I was impressed with the fact that they didn’t just hand out clothes to kids, but rather paired each child with a “personal shopper” to assist them in finding the perfect outfit for that first day back.

When I started on July 2, 2012 preparations for Back to School were in full swing. Boxes were arriving daily with assorted items and colors and we unpacked and sorted in anticipation for the children we would see at the end of the month. When that time finally did roll around, I got to experience firsthand the smiles on these kids’ faces when they find just the right pair of shoes or a shirt with the perfect amount of glitter and “bling” for first impressions. Along with shopping with the kids, I thoroughly enjoyed conducting the surveys at the end of the experience. I got to talk to the kids about the items they had received and how they had made them feel.  Here are some of the highlights:

“Love being here.” 

I think the people here are very nice! Thank you so much!”

“This is a nice place. Staff are very nice. They have cool clothes.”

My other favorite memories with Citizens Caring for Children have been with our mentor program. I feel like this program makes a huge difference in the lives of these children, but ultimately in the lives of the mentors as well. It is so satisfying to interview a mentor, and then complete an interest profile with a child and know that you have found a perfect match, and then bringing them together. I love hearing stories from mentors about the new experiences that they have with their mentees. It may be as simple as a girl’s first trip to Arby’s or a once in a lifetime experience like meeting Russell Westbrook at our holiday party, but all of these new experiences help to create a special bond between the mentor and the mentee. The mentor’s job is twofold: allow these children to experience the joys of being a child and help prepare them for a brighter future. Those two things are at the core of Citizens Caring for Children’s mission and vision, and it is amazing to see it at work.

As I reflect on my first year here at Citizens Caring for Children I think about the giggles and belly laughs; the big, expectant eyes; the little feet dancing in their new clothes and shoes; the happy kids that seem to walk a little taller and prouder as they leave our doors; the mentees hugging mentors and confiding in them when they were strangers just months before and I think to myself that these small victories make it all worthwhile, but we still have such a long way to go.  I dream for a day that we work ourselves out of a job, where foster care is a word of the past, and where these children grow up to have happy, healthy families of their own.

Citizens Caring for Children Seeks Additional Members for Board of Directors
06.07.2013

Citizens Caring for Children has openings for new members to serve on the Board of Directors. Service on the CCC Board of Directors is a serious commitment but the reward of providing resources to the more than 10,000 children in foster care in Oklahoma is priceless. In 2014, Citizens Caring for Children will celebrate its 30th year, and as we continue to grow we need YOUR help!

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Minimum 3 year commitment to Citizens Caring for Children
  • Attendance of a minimum of 75% of the monthly board meetings (Board meetings held the third Monday of each Month at 12:30 at the Citizens Caring for Children headquarters and last approximately 1-1.5 hours)
  • Active participation on one of the following committees:
    Executive
    Marketing
    Human Resources
    Finance
    Board Development
    Fundraising
    Programs (all new members must serve on this committee)
  • Active participation in Citizens Caring for Children special events (Bids for Kids, Haunt and Harvest, etc.)
  • Volunteering for at least 2 shifts during each calendar year at special events.
  • Financial Contribution

For more detailed information please contact the CCC Board Development Chair, Alison Wolf at alison@faaecu.org.

Thank you for your interest in working with children and young adults in foster care. Together we can plant the seeds for a brighter future.