Before the Oklahoma Families First Program (OFFP), Sonya did not have custody of her children. Due to substance use and criminal justice involvement, her two older children had been removed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and were living with family members. She started the program while pregnant with her third child.
Sonya had a long history of substance use, and despite numerous attempts to stop using drugs through various treatment programs, she was unable to maintain sobriety for any significant length of time. However, she was determined to do things differently with her pregnancy, and as a result, enrolled in the Family & Children’s Services (F&CS) Parenting in Jail (PIJ) program while incarcerated at David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa.
Upon release from jail, Sonya transitioned into the F&CS Women’s Justice Team (WJT) outpatient program and enrolled in OFFP. She was part of the first OFFP cohort to attend Celebrating Families and Circle of Security Parenting groups held by F&CS staff. She never missed a group session, even attending virtual group meetings during the week she delivered her baby boy.
While participating in OFFP groups, Sonya continued to attend her outpatient treatment services and moved into a sober living home. DHS came to the hospital after the delivery of her son, but soon closed her case since Sonya was able to show proof of prenatal care throughout her pregnancy, no substance uses during her pregnancy, a supportive living arrangement through her sober living home, outpatient substance use treatment services, and parenting groups/services through OFFP.
A year later, Sonya continues to have custody of her son, works full-time, and still resides in her sober living home. Through sustained recovery, she has been able to begin the process of repairing damaged familial relationships and currently has unsupervised visitation with her two older children.
This would not have ended as successfully for Sonya as it did without the support of OFFP, an enhancement grant that allows F&CS staff to be trained on the ins and outs of treating pregnant and post-partum women with current or previous substance abuse concerns. The grant offers wonderful parenting classes and provides funding for F&CS to give each adult attending a $25 gift card, transportation to and from the group, a gas card if they drive to the group, and a meal.
“One class is every Monday for eight weeks, and the second class is every Monday for 10 weeks (about 2 and a half months),” said Katherine Ronnow, F&CS Criminal Justice Project Manager. “We run them one after the other. At the end of each parenting group, we give the graduate a free one-year zoo membership for two adults and four kids.”
Ronnow said 40 parents from the groups have graduated from the program since last October, and clients were provided treatment support funds that help to pay overdue bills, rent, food, and baby/children’s items.
Also because of the OFFP grant, Family Care Plans have been implemented, which help a parent or soon-to-be parent keep track of all their treatment and groups they attend. The Family Care plan shows DHS everything clients are doing to prepare for the safe arrival of their little one.