By OICA CEO Joe Dorman

I have had the opportunity to meet many amazing people through my years of service, but there are some who stand out as beacons of hope.  I am proud to count Laura Choate, along with Melvin and Jasmine Moran, among them. To honor these special individuals, the OICA now bestows two annual awards in their name.

The Laura Choate Resilience Award was created to celebrate individuals who have overcome adversity in their childhood and gone on to make lasting contributions to the lives of young people. There is no one more appropriate to name this award after than Laura, who overcame abuse while in state custody and helped permanently improve Oklahoma’s child welfare programs.

Laura served as a plaintiff in the “Terry D” class-action lawsuit that resulted in dramatic changes to Oklahoma’s DHS and juvenile justice agencies. The reforms that emerged because of the lawsuit not only successfully improved conditions in Oklahoma, but were used as models by other states to establish their own higher standards. The lawsuit also gave birth to the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, as the state recognized the need for a permanent watchdog group to ensure we never again saw the kind of abuse and neglect in state programs.  Laura served as an important catalyst for these changes and has since dedicated her life to ensuring the experiences she suffered will never again be duplicated for kids in state custody.

Today, OICA is proud to honor individuals who demonstrate the same qualities as Laura by overcoming challenges, making lasting contribution to the lives of young people, exhibiting bravery, and demonstrating dedication to fostering resilience in youth. Our Laura Choate Resilience Award-winners exhibit what researchers at the International Youth Foundation call the “Seven C’s of Resilience:” Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping, and Control

OICA is also excited to bestow a new award: the Moran Kidizenship Award.  It is named in recognition of the positive work of Melvin and Jasmine Moran, who founded the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum in Seminole, Oklahoma, and have supported countless other programs that help to educate or bring joy to the lives of children.

The Moran Kidizenship Award will recognize “kids who do good work for other kids” in Oklahoma. One $500 and four $250 awards will be given to Oklahomans under the age of nineteen who have dedicated time and hard work, either to a program they have either created or an existing program they have helped to elevate.  In the spirit of Melvin and Jasmine Moran, OICA wants to recognize these youngsters and set the standard for them to continue to do great things into the future.

The public can submit nominations for both awards at oica.org under the Awards tab. The window to nominate a candidate will close at 5 P.M. on September 29th, and we hope you will take the time to nominate outstanding and deserving winners to help us with our search!

Both awards will be presented at the 2017 Oklahoma Kids Count Conference.  This conference, hosted by OICA, will be held at the Oklahoma State Capitol on November 2, and pre-registration is open at oica.org should you be able to attend. The Oklahoma KIDS COUNT Conference is the state’s premier event providing training to improve the lives of Oklahoma children and to discuss issues impacting children in the state.

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