Mothers hired to help parents with children in DHS custody

OKLAHOMA CITY - Sheena Grayson is writing a new chapter in her life. The last one was a much darker path while struggling with drug addiction.

"I battled addiction for about 10 years, and was involved with DHS child welfare and lost parental rights to one of my children back in 2007,” Grayson said.

Grayson's path changed after entering into the ReMerge program diverting women who are facing incarceration into leading more productive lives.

"I entered through the Remerge program, and graduated and completed that successfully, have full custody of my children back,” she said.

Now, Grayson is using her experience to help other mothers just like herself through a program launched Friday.

"Parents involved in the DHS system will now have a mentor to walk through that journey with them that has actually navigated that system before,” said Ashley Smith, program manager at NorthCare.

It's called Oklahoma Parent Partners, and it's through NorthCare, a community mental health center.

Parents in Oklahoma County with children in DHS custody can now be mentored by a mother who has experienced a similar situation.

"They can connect them to important resources and just support them in their questions and concerns along the way in what this journey is going to look like,” Smith said.

The goal is to increase rates of reunification for children in state custody, something they said is proven in other states with similar programs.

Grayson said she will work with up to 20 parents at any given time to help them with whatever challenges they have.

"Just being able to share that with them, be able to inspire them, encourage them to make those difficult changes so they can have a safe and secure home for their children,” she said.

The program is funded through the Arnall Family Foundation and the Oklahoma Children's Court Improvement Program.