Green Country Grown-Up: Chris Siemens
Serving the Foster Care Community
Editor’s Note: Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children is now known as Fostering Connections. Find their website here.
Chris Siemens’ heart lies in helping children. Over the years, she has worked for local nonprofit agencies whose focus has been on helping those who couldn’t help themselves – abused, neglected and abandoned children in various stages of need. After learning that her now current position was available, she knew it was meant for her. The years of professional experience she had working for nonprofits in various leadership roles coupled with her personal role as a foster parent prepared her well for stepping into her new position as executive director for Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children (TAPC).
Currently, TAPC is preparing for the Christmas for Kids program, aimed at supporting children and families in Tulsa’s fostercare system. The program’s success is directly dependent on support from the Tulsa Community. I talked to Chris Siemens about her new role at TAPC and the impact of the Christmas for Kids program.
Getting to know Chris
TK: Tell us a little about yourself.
Chris: I grew up in Tulsa and love it here. After high school, I attended Tulsa Community College and then moved on to the University of Oklahoma. After college, I worked in corporate America, but quickly realized my heart and talents were with helping kids in need. I decided to attend graduate school for my master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Southern Nazarene University. I eventually found a spot with a nonprofit and have worked for several in the Tulsa area over the years prior to becoming TAPC’s Executive Director.
TK: How did you and your husband initially become interested in fostering children?
Chris: Even at a young age, I was interested in adopting children. It was many years later that I had friends who were going through the fostering process. Over time, we visited at great length about their experience [with fostering children]. I knew it was something I was meant to do and, ironically, we ended up taking one of the kids that our friends initially started fostering and, after going through the adoption process, he was our first adoption.
TK: As a seasoned foster-care parent, what advice would you give to those who are considering becoming a foster parent?
Chris: People ask me all the time, “How do you do it”? They follow that statement with “I could never foster. I would get too attached.” My reply is telling them yes, you do get attached, but that is the point. These children have experienced severe trauma, trauma that many adults haven’t experienced. They need to feel the bond and attachment to a parental figure. Foster parents should be vulnerable when working with foster children and allow themselves to become attached. When or if the child should leave the foster home to be reunited with their biological family or move to another placement, yes, it hurts and, yes, it’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done. But, it’s worth it to know that for that amount of time, I was able to provide a child with the safety and security of living in a loving, healthy home environment. I know I will heal. I know how to cope with the loss of the child leaving. The feelings I experience when a child leaves my home is nothing compared to the hurt and pain that the child feels due to the trauma they experienced.
TK: Can you share one fun fact about your family?
Chris: In 2016, my family was invited and recognized by Govenor Fallin during her State of the State address when she kicked off the Oklahoma Fosters campaign.
More about the TAPC Organization
TK: Tell us about TAPC.
Chris: Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children is a Tulsa based 501(c)(3) nonprofit designed to assist children in DHS custody with basic needs. Our mission is to improve the lives of abused and neglected children in Tulsa County through advocacy, resource development, best practice service provision and community outreach. We help provide for necessities and outings for children at the Laura Dester Children’s Center, operate a Foster Family Resource Center for foster children to obtain items to meet their basic needs on a monthly basis, and celebrate Christmas through our Christmas for Kids program which matches the Christmas gift wishes of Tulsa County foster children.
TK: What is TAPC’s goal?
Chris: TAPC’s goal is to serve the almost 1500 children in DHS custody in Tulsa County. Through our Foster Family Resource Center, we served over 3500 foster families last year, and our Christmas for Kids program provided gifts for 1561 foster children in 2016. The children we serve are our community’s most vulnerable, and TAPC serves to meet the needs as best as we can, to help normalize the lives of these children.
TK: What interested you about serving as the executive director for TAPC?
Chris: When I learned of the position, I jumped on it! This opportunity came at the right time for me. I was ready to make the next step and lead an organization, and the perfect organization was looking for their next leader. TAPC has served foster children in the Tulsa area for over 10 years, and I knew I had the experience both professionally and personally to grow the organization.
TK: What do you envision for the future of TAPC, and what is the organization doing to get there?
Chris: Each day brings a greater need for foster children and foster families. On any given day, there are over 40 children at the Laura Dester Children’s Center, and the need for foster parents is enormous. We work closely with DHS in supporting foster children and foster/kinship parents in meeting the basic needs of the children, but there is still so much work to be done. My vision for TAPC is to eventually move into one location – we are currently spread out in three separate locations – to better serve our population. We are refining our processes every day, and looking for innovative ways to meet the needs of our children on a daily basis. We are working to place ourselves strategically in the community, and will soon be conducting a needs assessment to understand better how we can serve foster children and foster families.
TK: Tell us about Christmas for Kids.
Chris: Each Christmas, we run our Christmas for Kids program. We ask each DHS foster child in Tulsa County to complete a form (or have someone complete the form for them) asking what their top two wishes are for Christmas. We ask for sponsors for each of these children, hoping to meet the needs and fulfill their exact wishes. We also are asking for cash donations, as not every child receives a sponsor and we purchase the gifts for them. We’re looking for individual, family and corporate donors!
TK: How can Tulsa residents get involved in TAPC?
Chris: We greatly value and rely heavily on our volunteers. Our volunteers make our organization run smoothly and are dedicated to our cause. Volunteers help us at the Laura Dester Children’s Center by mentoring and helping the children, transporting goods from various locations, sorting through our donations, organizing our warehouse and Foster Family Resource Center, helping with Christmas for Kids, talking with foster families and offering assistance if needed during their visits to the Resource Center. We accept donations of new or gently used children’s items, i.e. clothing, shoes, toys, strollers, car seats, socks, new undergarments, cribs, beds (frames and mattresses), bedding, etc. And of course, we are always seeking monetary donations to be able to smoothly run our organization.
To Donate or Volunteer: Please contact Chris Siemens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 918.728.6726.