Seeking Foster Families to Take Care of Our Children

As a child, I dreaded the late-night telephone calls. They meant my mom, who worked for the Department of Human Services, was needed to deal with an emergency placement of a child. As my mom prepared to leave, I had a simple wish: Wouldn’t it be great if there were people who would volunteer to take care of these children?

I still have that wish today. A new initiative that DHS and I recently launched is helping make my wish a reality.

Oklahoma Fosters is a coordinated campaign to renew our efforts to find foster families for the hundreds of children  who continue to come into state custody.

These children are placed in state custody through no fault of their own. These children need foster families to love and support them during their time of need.

There are nearly 10,500 children in the foster care system, and we desperately need the help of all Oklahomans. Our goal is to recruit more than a thousand new foster parents by June 30 as well as retaining our current foster families

Oklahoma Fosters is a statewide campaign uniting state, tribal and local governments, businesses, nonprofits and the faith-based community to end the foster care crisis in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Fosters is about rallying different groups to a call to action. This is a crisis. And we need to respond.

Oklahomans are listening. Since January 1, Oklahoma Fosters has received 665 inquiries from those considering being foster families

The faith community is also stepping up. So far, the state denominational leaders of the United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Church, the Assemblies of God Church and Oklahoma Council of Churches have said they will help participate in the campaign. Together, they represent over 2,500 Oklahoma churches.

All churches and denominations can get involved. If you haven’t heard about Oklahoma Fosters in your place of worship, ask why not.

In the coming months, the Oklahoma Foster campaign will be on the road to make communities aware of the program while trying to recruit new foster families. These events will include town hall-type settings, recruitment fairs and large awareness events.

Why is all this necessary? In 2012, Oklahoma recognized it had a crisis when it came to its foster care system and children in state custody. In response, the Pinnacle Plan was launched. It includes a variety of goals intended to improve services for Oklahoma’s vulnerable children, increase safety and prevent abuse and neglect.

It has been successful on several fronts, but unfortunately, in 2012,  we couldn’t have predicted the numbers of children that would begin pouring into the foster care system over the next few years. We’ve gone from  8,500 children in state custody in May 2012 to 11,500 last year, to nearly 10,500 today.

DHS is employing lots of strategies to reduce the numbers of kids in foster care and try to prevent children from coming into care when safely possible, but there are still many children who are in dangerous circumstances that must be removed and need loving homes.  For this reason,  we MUST recruit new foster families.

I’m encouraged by early results of Oklahoma Fosters. For the first time since the Pinnacle Plan began, DHS in February recorded an all-time high of 160 families in a month entering the certification process to become foster parents. They have actually begun the process of background checks and training.

Ultimately, the hope is that the Oklahoma Fosters campaign inspires a statewide movement around the foster care crisis.

If the right family match is made for a child in state custody, Oklahoma will see a reduction in abuse and neglect in care, minimize moves for children,  reduce the use of shelters, see more successful adoptions and fewer older youth aging out of the system without a permanent family.

It’s my wish – and hopefully yours, too – that with your help, we can usher in a new day in our state: one where no child is ever waiting on a family, but rather a long line of families is waiting to take care of our children.

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