Family Life Services (FLS) is a multi-function resource center that often is associated with pregnancy.

Tim and Sandy Durham

More than half of its clientele is female, but there are services available for men, as well.

In addition to pregnancy tests, FLS offers help with attaining state insurance, a Healthy Beginnings program, parenting classes, family counseling, adoption services and court-ordered anger management counseling.

“We often deal with individuals who have run out of options,” said FLS Director Tim Durham.

FLS has been in Arkansas City since 1984 and Durham has been with the organization for almost its entire life.

In addition to the FLS services he provides, he also does public speaking at Cowley College about ethics and at suicide prevention seminars.

FLS is a faith-based nonprofit organization that is supported by churches and the community, as well as some state funding. It is located at 305 S. Summit St. and can be contacted at (620) 442-1688.

Parenting classes

Sandy Durham, who teaches parenting classes at FLS, offers the classes to anyone who is a guardian or child caregiver.

Many of the people she helps have become caregivers quite unexpectedly. “Our heart is to help families,” she said.

The classes FLS offers are structured to help people to learn how to be parents. “Parenting itself is a complex (matter),” said Tim Durham.

There are many special circumstances that complicate parenting, such as mental or physical handicaps.

Sandy Durham does research for more specific needs, such as sign language and help not only to understand Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but how to parent a child with ADHD.

Family counseling

Tim Durham takes care of all counseling at FLS, which includes supervising family visitation, offering anger management counseling and making court appearances on behalf of the organization’s clientele.

Whether the people he counsels are ordered by the court to attend counseling or just simply came to FLS on their own, Durham said he strives to perform the best services possible for everyone.

“You never know what’s going to come in or who is going to call,” he said. “People are lovable.”

Durham said he can’t imagine doing anything else with his life, even though he never imagined this would be his profession.

“I feel like the most blessed man on the planet,” he said. “I love the challenge. If I had to stop doing this … I’d be so depressed.”

Healthy Beginnings

Healthy Beginnings is a free prenatal education program offered by FLS. Charla Myrick, the coordinator of the program, is a registered nurse.

The program’s primary goal is to make sure the pregnancies FLS sees end with healthy babies. The educational materials provide mothers with information about what will happen to their bodies while they are pregnant and provide tools to understand pregnancy better.

Medical information also is taught to expectant mothers, to help them to make good decisions about nutrition.

By participating in the program, these mothers are able to pick up items for the baby in the “mommy store.”

The items in the mommy store are new or gently used and range from clothing to diapers to toys.

Sometimes, bigger-ticket items are available for free, such as cribs and car seats.

Adoptions

Half of all pregnancies are unexpected or unwanted — and of those cases, 4 in 10 end in abortion.

Pregnant women who come to FLS with unwanted pregnancies and want to put their children up for adoption are able to use the facility for the adoption process.

Married couples also frequent FLS, knowing it facilitates adoptions, and have to undergo a complete vetting process that includes a psychological evaluation, home visits, and parenting classes.

When a woman decides to offer her child up for adoption, she can choose who becomes her child’s adoptive parents.

The birth mother also can choose whether the adoption is a closed, traditional adoption or an open one.

An open adoption ensures that she will have visitation with her child.

Closed adoptions generally cut the biological parents off from the child’s life entirely.

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