Family & Children’s Services and George Kaiser Family Foundation held a graduation ceremony Monday, May 13 at the Oklahoma State Capitol for 21 participants who recently completed Women in Recovery (WIR), a program that provides an alternative to prison. This ceremony marks more than 115 graduates since the first group of graduates in July 2010.
“In this program, I have become a strong, confident, compassionate woman. I have found joy in life and peace within myself,” said Amy Collins, a graduate of Women in Recovery. “I have become a better mother, friend, sister, daughter, granddaughter and employee. I am proud of who I am today.”
WIR is an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent female offenders in Tulsa County who have alcohol and drug addictions. The program includes one year of intensive treatment and services, allowing participants to successfully return to their families and communities. WIR is a program of Family & Children’s Services in Tulsa and George Kaiser Family Foundation is its lead funder.
“George Kaiser Family Foundation is proud to support Women in Recovery,” said Ken Levit, executive director of the foundation. “Our foundation is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty in Tulsa, and if we can help these women to get their lives back on track and become productive members of society, then they will be able to focus on their children and setting a good example for them in the future.”
Levit provided the introduction at the ceremony, while T. Hastings Siegfried, vice chairman of The NORDAM Group, was the featured speaker.
“It is inspiring to see the great accomplishments made by these women,” said Siegfried. “Each woman has a unique story with a variety of obstacles to overcome and Women in Recovery has played a large role in assisting with their success.”
In order to qualify for WIR, the women must be 18 years of age or older, involved in the criminal justice system and of imminent risk of incarceration, ineligible for other diversion services or courts and must have a history of substance abuse.
One important aspect of WIR is reunifying participants with their children and families. That’s why women with children have a high priority for program admission. In total, WIR has helped 247 women and 517 children since 2009. Today’s 21 graduates have a total of 53 children.
“At WIR, we focus on bringing families together and giving mothers the tools needed to be a sober, dependable role model for their children,” said Mimi Tarrasch, WIR program director. “After every graduation, I am always amazed and so proud of the progress achieved by each participant. It feels good to know I have the opportunity to work with an organization that makes such a great impact on families in Oklahoma.”
In order to graduate from WIR, all participants must be drug/alcohol-free, crime-free, employed, actively participating in community recovery support, engaged in reunification plans with their children and meeting all legal and court requirements. The program includes an aftercare program and three-year follow up evaluation provided by the University of Tulsa.