Story & photos by Zaviana James - Social Media Coordinator
The holidays are all about family; unfortunately, there are some families that are not able to spend the season together. Even worse, some are unable to see each other during the rest of the year.
Families tend to get separated for many different reasons such as child abuse, child neglect and other problems. These children get taken away from their parents and are placed into state custody. In many cases they are put into a group home or foster care until their parents can regain custody. Many times these children can see their parents at the Child Welfare services office only under supervised visits. Being under direct state supervision can make both the child and parent feel uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there is a local nonprofit organization that is bringing families back together in a home-like environment until children can be placed back in their homes.
This particular organization is called Hope for the Future, founded by Clotiel Howard.
“HFTF provides an environment that allows families to connect safely, following their temporary separation due to allegations of abuse and/or neglect,” Howard said.
Hope For The Future serves an average of 50 children a month and has served at least 440 children since it opened.
What makes Hope For The Future so different from Child Welfare Services is that this organization has set up 5 visitation rooms to resemble a home living area. Also, they offer a party room so that families can celebrate birthday parties. There are toys, televisions and even a kitchen located on site so children and parents can feel more accomodated.
“After a couple of visits, parents are comfortable, children are comfortable, the anger from both sides appears to cease and visitations are a lot better,” Howard said.
The families are still supervised but by cameras, so they can feel more comfortable than if someone were to be in the room.
“The greatest impact is when I see families interacting, laughing, talking, eating, doing homework or most importantly, when a family is ordered unsupervised visits because visitations have been going extremely well- that is the greatest impact of them all,” Howard said.
Each visit parents have with their children gets them a step closer to putting their families back together, and because children who are taken away from their families at such a young age can experience longlasting psychological effects, speed matters.
Howard, a former Court Appointed Special Advocates Training Manager for Oklahoma County, encountered a young juvenile girl who she says helped inspire Hope For The Future.
This young girl was angry and waiting for a judge when Howard asked about her five younger siblings and when she last seen them.
“She could not remember the exact time she had seen her siblings last, but she said they visited ‘in that stinky room upstairs’ and that ‘everyone always lied to her,’” Howard said.
Howard asked the girl what she wanted for her future. “Her face filled with sadness. The girl replied with obvious remorse, ‘I don’t have a future’. I immediately responded, ‘Yes, there is always hope for the future!’’’ Howard said.
Howard is one of the many people running a non-profit in Oklahoma City, which on top of daily life and careers can tend to be a lot. Howard welcomes volunteers and donations from anyone who shares the same passion for social work as she does.
Hope For The Future has received no federal or state funding. For more information about Hope For The Future or to donate call 535-2279.