Removing a child from an unsafe environment is a hard moment to imagine. It’s not one that is shown on the news or often dramatized on television. It is real and raw; lifesaving yet imperfect. It is accomplished by heroes who work triage during the emotional trauma. If we let ourselves think about it from a child’s perspective, that moment holds fear of the unknown that is ahead, hope for healing, heartbreak over leaving family no matter the circumstances, and a million other swirling emotions. That moment is pivotal.
What could be more influential for children than that moment of removal? It is the arms that welcome them to where they are going and promise to help them process where they have been. Foster families serve as temporary placement for children needing out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect. Foster families provide a safe and nurturing home and are committed to working with birth families to reunite children with their families.
It’s no secret that Oklahoma has a shortage of foster families. Right now, there are 8,705 children in Oklahoma Department of Human Services custody and a need for 1,080 more foster homes in Oklahoma this year.
The goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families whenever possible. While parents work on correcting the conditions that led to the removal of their child from the home, foster families serve as surrogate caregivers. Foster parents are meant to be a stable environment offering love, support, basic needs and safety. They dry tears, help with homework, play games, give hugs, teach character, change diapers, calm in the night and offer their hearts and homes to children. Foster families are selfless and unfortunately too few.
Oklahoma Fosters is a statewide campaign uniting state, tribal and local governments, businesses, nonprofits and the faith-based communities to end the foster care crisis in Oklahoma. They are calling on every citizen and every sector to unite for children needing safe homes.
Governor Mary Fallin states on the Oklahoma Fosters website, “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.”
Fostering is not for everyone, and that’s okay. We all can help in different ways – some large, some small. But if you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, Oklahoma Fosters sets out these guidelines:
- Must be over 21 years of age.
- Can be single, married, separated or divorced.
- Must own or rent and be able to provide adequate living space for a child.
- Have outside source of income other than foster care reimbursement
- Complete required training.
- Each household member, 18 years of age or older, must to submit to background checks including child welfare records and fingerprints.
- Be in good physical and mental health to provide for the needs of a child. A physical exam by your physician is required.
- Have a working phone and vehicle.
- Possess a willingness to provide a safe, loving home for foster children.
- Have the ability to love, understand, care for and accept a child to whom you did not give birth.
- Understand that your life will change greatly. This journey will be tough but will impact the forever life of those that you care for.
If you would like more information on becoming a foster parent, visit the Oklahoma Foster’s website at www.oklahomafosters.com or call the OKDHS Foster Parent Hotline at 1-800-376-9729.
Maybe fostering right now is not the best option for you, yet you are interested in helping foster families. Next week we plan to discuss how we can work together to support foster families and children in our community. As we have said before, it takes a village. We believe Bartlesville is the type of village that reaches out to each other during difficulty – the type of community that stands behind innocent children and those who house them.