When faith makes a family

Oklahoma churches, including many in Tulsa, are partnering with the state to meet the needs of children in foster care.



Jonette Coquat with her three children, ages 8, 4 and 3. Coquat became a foster parent to the sibling group 3 1/2 years ago and is raising the children with the support of her Tulsa church.

(page 1 of 3)

“Does God get what God wants?”

The question echoed off the walls of the auditorium filled with northeastern Oklahoma church leaders and members. Benjamin Nockels repeated it. Again, silence.

Nockels, a former Oklahoma City pastor, is today what he calls the “visionary leader” behind the 111Project, a statewide initiative to leave no Oklahoma child without a family. The crowd he spoke to Oct. 4 was gathered for the statewide 8308 Conference at Southern Hills Baptist Church, where representatives of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Tulsa churches spoke about foster care needs.

The conference is named for the 8,308 children who were in state custody on Jan. 1, according to OKDHS. These children — newborns to age 18 — do not have families to care for them. They may have been neglected, abandoned or abused. They may have been subjected to extreme poverty or drug abuse. Their caregivers may have been incarcerated. Now, they’ve been removed from the only home they’ve known.

In late 2010, Nockels was asked to represent the Oklahoma City faith community at a meeting with leaders from OKDHS, the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and the community to assess the need for recruiting additional foster families across the state.

“(OKDHS representatives) said, ‘We need as many as 1,500 more foster families statewide, and we, DHS, have identified the faith community as the very best place to go get these families, but we don’t have access to them,’” Nockels recalls.

As a result of what Nockels calls “a groundswell of activity” in the statewide faith community around foster care, the 111Project — which stands for “1 church, 1 family, 1 purpose” — launched in April 2011 in Oklahoma City, followed by a Tulsa launch in October 2011. While the project is not affiliated with OKDHS and receives no state funding, it supports the objectives of OKDHS, Nockels says.

At press time, 92 Oklahoma churches — mostly from Oklahoma City and Tulsa — had pledged more than 400 families from their congregations to foster a child or children through the 111Project, and more than 300 families had committed to do so. However, Nockels says OKDHS would like to add 500 more foster families by June 30, 2013, a goal outlined in the agency’s Pinnacle Plan.

Tulsa’s unique strength is its volunteer-led effort of about 20 individuals working directly with churches, Nockels says.

Candace Morton, childshare coordinator at Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care; Mollie Myers, director of City Church’s LoveTulsa ministry; and Ulysses Allen, foster care recruitment shepherd for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, are working to recruit and support foster parents in Tulsa’s faith community.Mollie Myers, director of City Church’s LoveTulsa ministry, is one of those volunteers.  In April 2011, she and a group of church members visited the Laura Dester Children’s Center in north Tulsa for Easter activities with children in the shelter’s temporary care.

Myers later realized two of the boys who had helped her hide eggs had been in her own church’s children’s department years ago.

“It just undid me. It messed me up so badly,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, what could we have done? Where did we drop the ball?’ I felt so condemned in some ways, because we had this family in our church.”

Myers says many people believe it’s the job of OKDHS to raise children whose families cannot provide the care they need. In fact, she admits she used to feel the same way.

“Well, it’s DHS’ goal to make sure that child is safe, but it’s not their job to raise that child,” she says. “They’re not a parent. They’re not a family, and they shouldn’t have to act as one, and they are having to act as one right now.”

On Tuesday evenings, Myers reads to the children at the shelter. Volunteers aren’t allowed into bedrooms, though the kids ask her repeatedly to come in to read to them. She calls the experience “heart-wrenching,” yet she is compelled to return each week.

“It feels so institutional,” Myers says. “It’s like, ‘I want to come in there and talk to you, and brush your hair and put you to sleep, just like I do my own kids, but I have to (read) from the doorway.’”

The saddest part is, Myers says, “I’ve been reading to some of the same kids for months.”

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May 2019

B-29 Doc will spend Memorial Day weekend in in Tulsa, Okla., May 25 and 26. The Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium (TASM) will host B-29 Doc for a two-day event that will feature both static...

Cost: $20.00 - Free

Where:
Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
3624 North 74th East Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74115
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Sponsor: Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium
Telephone: 918-834-9900
Contact Name: Kevin Meeks
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National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
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Barnes & Noble
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National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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Explore various moments in time as captured by PHOTOG, Photographers of Tulsa Oklahoma Group. The exhibit opening reception is 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1. The exhibit is open through May 30. Call...

Cost: Free and open to the public

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McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74135
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Sponsor: Tulsa Community College
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Armstrong

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Hope House
4241 S. 37th W. Ave.
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718 S Elm
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Telephone: 918-595-7339
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2025 East 71st Street
Tulsa, OK  74136
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910 S. Boston Ave.
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100 E. 2nd Street
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Tulsa, OK  74103
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Central Library
400 civic center
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Telephone: 918-596-2008
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Cost: Free and open to the public

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910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
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View map »


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Cost: 225.00

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Telephone: 918-295-5009
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Bestselling author Melanie Benjamin discusses her new novel, Misstress of the Ritz.

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Magic City Books
221 E Archer St
Tulsa, OK
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Sand Springs
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2113 E Admiral Blvd
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Jenks Riverwalk
300 Riverwalk Terrace
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The Museum’s Dickinson Research Center is home to more than 700,000 photographs, 44,000 books, and perhaps unexpectedly, at least 1,000 horses. Meet some of the herd in Horseplay, the new...

Cost: $12.50 adult entry

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National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
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View map »

More information

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Cost: 225.00

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Hyatt
100 E. 2nd Street
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View map »


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Cost: Packages Range $20.00 to $55.00

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Riverwest Festival Park
2100 S Jackson Ave
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-810-5472
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Cost: $12.50 adult entry

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National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 NE 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »

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Cost: 59.95

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Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Cost: 20.00

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Cain's Ballroom
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: The Bridges Foundation
Telephone: 918-978-8448
Contact Name: Paxton Stieber
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Cost: $100.00

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St. John Medical Center
1819 E. 19th Street
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: St. John Health System
Telephone: 918-744-2186
Contact Name: Lucky Lamons
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Tulsa Flavors at St. John Street Party will be held June 1 from 7-11 p.m. at 1923 S. Utica Ave. in Tulsa. Join us for one of Tulsa's largest outdoor fundraising events! The night features food...

Cost: Varies

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St. John Medical Center
1923 S. Utica Ave
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Telephone: 918-744-2186
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108 N Detroit Ave
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ONEOK Field
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Where:
Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area
6850 S Elwood Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Vox Pop Tulsa
18th & Cheyenne
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A-LIST 2019: Head to Toe

Winners in 20 health and wellness categories as voted by the readers of TulsaPeople

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