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“We saw signs the oldest was getting into self-harm,” said Swiggart. “I was calling our worker, reaching out and asking for more training.” Eventually, the sibling set had to be moved and the Swiggarts closed their home with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, grieving what they thought might be the end of their foster care journey. It was Angels Foster Family Network, and the organization’s HALO project, a 10-week intensive outpatient intervention for children in foster care or adopted who are challenged in forming attachments, that rejuvenated them. “[HALO] is what I was asking for, and they [former foster kids] wouldn’t have had to move out if we had just known,” said Swiggart. “My heart is sad about that, but I asked the right questions and pressed as much as I could at that moment.” In addition to providing trauma-based therapies for children, HALO offers parents training on how trauma changes a child’s biology and physiology, helping them understand why traditional parenting methods may not work. Parents learn new methodologies for everything from behavior modification to everyday conversation, attachment theory and principles and sensory processing. Support groups are facilitated by a clinician and parents learn and practice play therapy techniques designed to empower and connect their families. Children benefit from social groups, individual therapy, speech and occupational therapy and comprehensive assessments and evaluations. “You get concrete evidence for why their brains work differently and why traditional parenting isn’t the most effective in the majority of situations,” said Swiggart. “If I have more tools like this, I can reach more kids, meeting them where they are.” And that’s exactly what the Swiggarts have done, reopening their home through Angels and fostering a total of 17 kids. Tammy and Russell were awarded Angels’ HALO Award in 2018 for their dedication to Oklahoma children. But Swiggart credits the team at Angels for investing deeply in their families. “They can feel if I’m having a rough day through a text message and our social worker will say she’s bringing dinner to us,” said Swiggart. “That’s not special to me. The caseloads for our workers are so much smaller that they have time to invest in the non-necessary things.”


The Swiggarts’ first placement with Angels was a set of newborn twins. Though they attempted to build a relationship with the biological parents, parental rights were eventually terminated and the Swiggarts adopted Olivia and Avery. “I keep tabs on [the biological mom] as much as I can,” said Swiggart. “When they’re older,

if they want to track her and their siblings down, I’ll have as much record as I can for them.” After the twins’ adoption in June 2015, the Swiggarts took short-term placements, primarily kids who were close to reunification and needed a foster home briefly or those who were sick and needed care until



Profile for MetroFamily Magazine

MetroFamily Magazine February 2019  

MetroFamily Magazine February 2019