The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has announced that starting January 1, 2013, no children under two years of age will be able to access any children’s shelter or other facility that has shift care (reference: DHS Pinnacle Plan).
There are currently over 6000 children total in DHS custody, with at least a thousand of those a year being a child under the age of two. There is already a huge shortage of quality foster care homes. Unless we address this crisis, there will be no place for these babies to go, leaving them in danger of not being taken from a hostile or dangerous home.
In general, there is great dissatisfaction with being a foster care provider in Oklahoma, because the department has not given adequate attention to helping these families to be successful. A handful of private non-profit agencies have stepped forward and shown that foster care families can be successful and feel good about their care. We will join up with these programs with a proven track record and stand beside them to offer resources. Our job will be to help get these families the extra resources they need, once they have passed all the hurdles at the private placement agency. This will ensure that we have quality families who are doing this for the right reason: to take care of the children.
Many of these children become “homeless” in the middle of the night. They are picked up in drug raids, domestic violence disturbances, abandoned, and when their parent is on drugs and not supervising them. We have seen children covered in blood after witnessing a murder. We have seen children naked and left alone after being raped. All of these situations require things to happen in an emergency time frame. These children need an “emergency” family to take them, whenever and whatever the situation.
In order for a family to be able to do this successfully, one of the parents will likely have to either only work part-time or not at all, so they can respond as needed. This will put an additional monetary burden on this family to provide this type of care. DHS currently pays about $20 per day for this care. An amount of $600 a month is not going to offset the reduction in wages nor the huge monetary cost to provide this type of care.
Resources that we hope to be able to provide:
- materials and labor to get a foster family’s existing household ready to pass their home study inspection
- baby items such as bedding, clothing, diaper bag, diapers and wetwipes, formula and baby food
- medicine (through a stipend payment to cover anything SoonerCare is not covering)
- ongoing monetary assistance to be able to provide this emergency care
- if needed, emergency transportation of the child to the home
- if needed, emergency medical assistance to get the child stabilized
- eventually our goal is to be able to provide a fully equipped house for the family