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Welcome Home // Willard Home Grows From Shelter to Total Counseling Program

Welcome Home // Willard Home Grows From Shelter to Total Counseling Program

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Susan, Louise and Dawn were immoveable forces, their parents

irresistible objects.

Then came some of the things that teen-agers do when pain

and rage bring them to a melting point.

They ran away, abused drugs, got drunk, skipped school

and consorted with characters who belong in an S.E. Hinton

novel. Suicide crossed their minds more than once.

All this brought them to the Frances Willard Home for Girls.

Named for a teetotaling Suffragette, the home is part of

a packaged program for girls who see themselves as being

part of the problem and part of the solution.

It was founded in 1917 by Tulsan Josephine Buhl, a member

of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, after a jail

matron told her stories about homeless girls who had nowhere

to go but jail.

The first girl who came to Frances Willard was Anna, found

pacing along a railroad platform.

She wore a pink and white dress, had a handkerchief, a small

powder puff and 5 cents in her pocket.

Since Anna, Frances Willard Home has evolved from a shelter

for girls, whose principal problem was having no where to

live, to a program for girls who are the products of a society

mired in social problems.

Most of the girls at the home - sponsored by the Oklahoma

United Methodist Church since 1958 - have been physically,

sexually or emotionally abused. Most come from single-parent

backgrounds or from a home with a stepparent.

"Our primary function is to (help them) handle the complexities

of being a teen and being a parent," said Cynthia Griffin,

diagnostic counselor. "It was much different in 1917."

The girls come from families social workers call "dysfunctional."

"Nobody can communicate," Griffin said.

Troubles often arise when "parents let teens have more

freedom than they can handle or are overly rigid and protective,"

she said. "That boxes a child in until she busts. Parents

need to provide a unified, consistent parenting style.

"Kids have changed," she said, adding the children social

service agencies see are more troubled than previously.

"The stress on parents also has changed tremendously. It's

much stronger than in the '50s and '60s. Parents just have

too many demands on their time, energy and attention, to

always be consistent."

Frances Willard, along with other agencies and programs,

has been bombarded in recent years with pleas for help from

distraught parents and by referrals from other organizations.

Administrator Anna-Faye Rose said Frances Willard received

approximately 400 admission requests last year. One hundred

of 400 applicants survived the screening process, but only

40 of them could be admitted.

"We could have taken 20 more if we'd had a full staff,"

she said.

A houseparent shortage forced closure of one of the home's

three cottages in February. The current resident census

- 14 - is half the number the home could accommodate, if

there were sufficient houseparents, she said.

Often mistaken for a home for unwed mothers, Frances Willard

Home has a $459,000 budget, 18 percent from United Way,

20 percent from state and federal sources, 3 percent from

parents and the balance from the Methodist Church.

Counselor Griffin said the program is built on structure

and logical consequences.

"Those are the deficits we see in a lot of families,"

she said. "We provide a child with structure, limits and


Girls rise at 5:30 a.m. and are responsible for cleaning

their rooms, then cleaning their cottages together. A snack

and study hall come after school. They have counseling sessions.

Weekly Bible study is mandatory.

Other activities include gym, cooking classes, aerobics,

ceramics and support groups. The program includes sex education,

drug awareness and speakers from the community. On weekends,

girls help keep the 40-acre grounds at 1616 N. Gilcrease

Museum Road clean. Field trips and mission work also are


"Teens get in trouble if they have a lot of free time,"

Griffin said.

To be admitted, girls must be willing to do their part to

help reunite the family.

"Virtually 100 percent come with intensely low self-esteem

and depression," Griffin said. "One of the neatest things

to watch is when everybody is feeling better about themselves . . .

It's a real turning point," she said.

Family counseling is part of the treatment plan, but parents

don't always come, she added.

The standard treatment plan is for of nine months. Frances Willard social

workers maintain contact with them for three to five months after they

leave. Occasionally, a girl is re-admitted to the program.

"We're fooling ourselves and everybody else if we say the

problem is all fixed and everything works, (when they leave)"

Griffin said. "Parents will experience some of the same

problems the agency has. The girl will be testing.

"But, problems can be solved sooner and in a healthier

way than if the child had not gotten treatment."

Susan, 17, said she was `'afraid" to talk to her parents.

It was easier to talk to her friends.

"My friends gave me the wrong answers and I got in trouble,"

she said.

She described the friends as "punk" and skinhead drug-abusers.

She was expelled from school for truancy.

"I had pictures of my friends when I came here. I had none

of my family. Now, it's different."

Dawn's parents divorced when she was ll. She tried to get

them back together.

"I played Mom and Dad against each other," she said.

Her grandfather died.

"He was the only person who ever loved me," said the 15-year-old.

She "ran around with the wrong people, got bad grades and

used drugs."

"Everyone else was doing it. Plus, my mom didn't want me to. That made it

a better reason to use drugs." Dawn, who lived with friends and with her

father, is better now, but still certain about one thing: she wants to go

home to her father, not her mother.

Louise also has lived with a variety of relatives and friends.

Her parents were divorced when she was a baby. She disliked

her stepfather and her mother's boyfriends.

She began drinking in the sixth grade.

"My grandmother covered up for me," she said.

After school is out, she plans to go home to her father.

"It's not only me trying, but my father and stepmother

are trying too," she said. "I've changed a lot."

"We're not anything like we used to be," Maureen said.


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