The balloons are a kaleidoscope of colors: red, orange, pink and yellow.
They float through the air as the energetic children work to keep them off the ground, working together in partnerships to help each other.
Managing partnerships is one of the key topics discussed during this meeting between participants in the Women in Recovery (WIR) program, their children and Tulsa’s Children’s Museum Discovery Lab.
“When we work in partners, we listen and we talk to each other,” said Alex Waetjen, who led the classroom activity.
This is the second year that Family & Children’s Services’ Women in Recovery has partnered with Children’s Museum Discovery Lab to bring programming to WIR participants and their children. Discovery Lab activities primarily partner with the Continuing Care department, meaning graduate families participate and enjoy monthly activities with Discovery Lab. Current participants of WIR are invited bimonthly to participate in the activities with graduate families.
“Through the WIR and Discovery Lab partnership, WIR is able to provide enhancement and educational programming and activities,” said Lindsey Crawford, coordinator of Continuing Care at Women in Recovery. “Our families are able to learn and experience new, healthy, fun and creative ways to bond and interact with their children. These program opportunities mirror and enhance the bonding, attachment and educational parenting curriculum our women receive through WIR.”
The Children’s Museum is providing children of WIR participants with 12 classes on STEM and health and wellness, three family engagement nights at the Discovery Lab, 150 guest passes, 25 membership passes and free registration in Discovery Lab summer camps for children of WIR graduates.
The Children’s Museum is also providing resources to Family & Children’s Parenting In the Jail program.
WIR participant Alexis Stephens is the mother of two kids, ages 9 and 1 ½. She said family event nights like one recently held at Women in Recovery are important.
“Life is busy,” she said. “This allows me at least an hour a week to be with them and not worry about anything else. Plus, I love that it is both fun and learning.”
In addition to creating an opportunity for mothers and their children to reconnect through play, Discovery Lab hopes to offer the children informal STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) experiences that will support success in the classroom and encourage a life-long love of learning and discovery, said Ray Vandiver, executive director of Discovery Lab.
“Playing and engaging with your child is so essential to their growth, however creating opportunities for meaningful play can be difficult for any parent,” Vandiver said. “For these women, who are coming out of incarceration, addiction, and, for some, a lengthy separation from their child, we are honored to aid in the process of reconnecting the family and inspiring them to be curious and explore together.”
Women in Recovery (WIR) is an intensive outpatient alternative to incarceration for eligible women facing long-term prison sentences for non-violent drug-related offense. Operated in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, WIR works closely with the criminal justice system and various community partners to ensure program participants receive substance abuse and mental health treatment, supervisions, workforce readiness training and family reunification as an alternative to incarceration.