The 111 Project
The purpose of the 111 Project is to leave no Oklahoma child without a family. Ben Nockels describes how the 111 Project started. In December 2010 Mark Youngblood who was the Chief Operating Officer at OKDHS met with Oklahoma child welfare leaders. The purpose of the meeting was to assess the need for more foster families and to implement a strategy. Nockels, who represented the faith community in that meeting, says they assessed the need for 1500 more foster families statewide and OKDHS identified the faith community as the best prospect pool to recruit these much needed families. Nockels says they left that meeting with a mandate to recruit new foster families for the more than 8,000 children in OKDHS custody. The 111 Project stands for "one church, one family, one purpose" and it was launched in April 2011. With over 6100 churches statewide, Nockels says they believe this 111 model is effective, "We can engage a local church and we can ask their pastor or leader or some other decision maker to commit at least one family for this one purpose." OKDHS director of child welfare Deborah Smith recently told the 111 Project that they are on track to meet the goal of recruiting an additional 500 foster families by June 30th. Nockles says, ”I would characterize the foster care issue as the most pressing issue facing our state and it’s an issue the faith community can and must respond. I would describe it as a local orphan crisis.”
Nockles encourages people to engage in the foster care issue by visiting their website and watching a short video on the homepage to learn about the need. He invites people to consider the possibility of becoming a foster family to one of the children in need of a family in Oklahoma. Their website is 111project.org. Nockles says, “Visit 111project.org where you can learn much more about foster care in the state of Oklahoma and your opportunity to respond. We would like for you to consider if you are ready, willing, and able to open your heart and your home to a child in need.” As the 111 Project works primarily in and through local churches, there is an opportunity on their website for a pastor, leader, or decision maker of a local church to commit their church to engage this issue. By clicking the “commit your church button” basic contact information can be provided to the 111 Project to begin a strategy in their local church to recruit new foster families. Families can respond directly as well by clicking on “commit my family.” Their basic contact information can be provided and the process can be started and questions can be answered. “We would encourage people to just take the next step. We’ve discovered that the best way for people to discern and process if this is something right for them is to actually embark on the journey and start the process. The process is intended to help uncover if this is a good fit for you and your family at this time.” Nockles says.
In our state every night there are 250 plus kids that sleep in shelters because there is not enough foster families, Nockels says. State shelters have opportunities for volunteers to interact with the boys and girls in state custody. Nockels encourages people to learn more and get involved, “My hope and my plea is that this would not be just another social issue, another cause, or additional statistics, but that everybody exposed to these realities would make it personal and get involved whether it’s in a volunteer capacity or to actually consider fostering. Let’s commit to get to know the children in our state that make up this issue.”