A Tulsa Girls Home (TGH) planned for Creek County just outside of Sapulpa is going before the Creek County Board of Adjustment next week.
The organization, which says it exists to “shelter, empower, restore and support teen girls who have been placed in foster care,” is facing some challenges as it prepares to open its first home for 8 teenaged girls on a 5-acre ranch on Teel Road.
Among those challenges is a handful of neighbors surrounding the ranch that TGH Co-Founder and President Brittany Stokes says are operating under a misunderstanding of what the organization does.
According to Stokes, neighbors have told her they believe the Tulsa Girls Home would drive down property values and bring crime to the area, among other things.
“We are not bringing in girls with criminal backgrounds,” Stokes says. “This isn’t like the Tulsa Boys Home, which has court-ordered placement.”
The Tulsa Boys Home, though not related to the Tulsa Girls Home, has been around for over 100 years and has become well-known for its rehabilitation programs for boys. It has also become nationally accredited as a residential treatment facility for boys with emotional, behavioral, and substance abuse problems.
The organization has seen a lot of success, and yet, there are not many options when it comes to similar programs for girls. Why is that?
“Girls are seen as more trouble,” Stokes says. “They’re moody, and they can get pregnant, and they’re more prone to self-harm.” In another interview, she countered that with, “But I’m a girl. And I believe in girls.”
Stokes’ belief in girls was raised to a new level a few years ago at an event she attended as a foster care representative. Stokes—who has been fostering with her husband for several years—had just finished speaking, when she was approached by a 16-year-old girl named Miracle. “She walked up to me, and asked me, ‘Will you adopt me?’” she said.
They did, and Miracle is now 19, a senior, and about to graduate high school.
Stokes said it hasn’t always been easy, but fostering and adopting never is. “She’s worth it,” Stokes says. “And I’d do it again.”
Tulsa Girls Home wants to help these girls that Stokes says are in danger of “aging out and falling homeless, into domestic violence, or becoming a victim of human trafficking.” Their programs include equine therapy and “hope-centered counseling.”
Stokes says her mission to start Tulsa Girls Home came after her own experience as a director of another shelter.
“Aged out foster care girls being beaten, abused, manipulated, and trafficked. Why? They had no identity. They didn’t know how to access resources,” she said. “They fell through the cracks–and things must change.”
The organization seems to be rallying a group that wants to see that change, and it’s working. They started a change.org petition to raise awareness of the situation and hopefully convince those neighbors to let them “have a home for the holidays.” After the interview, Stokes updated Sapulpa Times in a text message: “Great news, we’ve changed two of the three neighbors’ minds! God is working on hearts!”
The Creek County Board of Adjustment meeting is on Tuesday, December 14th, at 5 p.m. in the 2nd-floor ballroom of the Collins Building.