A Brief History of Circle of Care
The Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care has helped children and youth through residential and foster care services since 1917. Our name, locations, and programs have changed over the years. However, we have not changed our focus which is caring for children, youth families in crisis in Oklahoma. This history will tell the story of multiple independent residential United Methodist programs which eventually consolidated into one organization that now operates both campus-based and community programs.
We began as a Children’s Home on November 22, 1917, when the East and West Conference of the Oklahoma Methodist Episcopal Church, South, filed articles of incorporation for the Oklahoma Methodist Orphanage. At that time, the orphanage was located 7 miles north of Oklahoma City in Britton, Oklahoma. On March 25, 1942, the Britton facility was closed and 57 children boarded two buses and headed for their new home in Tahlequah which became known as the United Methodist Children’s Home.
The United Methodist Boy’s Ranch was started by Henry Burrow, a United Methodist who envisioned a ranch where boys from broken homes and delinquents from the streets might have a full opportunity to grow into manhood—mentally, physically and spiritually qualified to take their proper place in the world. The Boy’s Ranch officially began serving boys in 1963 on the west side of Lake Tenkiller and a few miles north of Gore, Oklahoma.
In 1917 the Frances Willard Home began to serve Tulsa girls who were orphaned, abandoned or neglected and had nowhere else to go. The specific location of the Frances Willard Home moved several times over the years, moving to its present location North of the Gilcrease Museum in 1958. That same year, the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference assumed ownership and management of the home and it has been in continuous operation since that time. When the girls from Tulsa were transferred to the Children’s Home in Tahlequah in the early 2000’s, the Frances Willard Ministry Center was repurposed as a retreat center internally and externally and a home for the Tulsa Child SHARE program. In September, 2008 Circle of Care opened a new program, Pearl’s Hope, at Francis Willard thanks to a generous bequest given to the United Methodist Foundation. Pearl’s Hope is a transitional housing program for homeless women with children.
Until 1977, the three residential homes all operated independently with their own boards of directors and administrators. In 1977, the homes became part of the United Methodist Child Care Agency, although they retained their own separate boards. That agency was later renamed Children, Youth and Family Ministries and, in turn, became the Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care, Inc., in 1994. Currently, all programs of the Circle of Care are governed by one Board and a President/CEO. In 1999, Circle of Care opened a fourth campus, the Holsinger Home in Enid. Then, in 2016, a 20 acre tract of the Oh Be Joyful Farm with two homes was generously donated to Circle of Care by Brad and Becky Johnson.
Today, our facilities in Tahlequah, Gore, and Tulsa each operate multiple programs serving youth and children, including the Independent Living Program. While Circle of Care historically operated residential programs, it added community-based foster care services (Child SHARE) about 15 years ago.