The last little boy at an Oklahoma Department of Human Services shelter has been fostered, allowing the shelter to close its doors.
“Michael” has been the only child in the Oklahoma City shelter for the past seven weeks.
The 7-year-old is autistic and needed a special foster family to come forward.
After a News 9 story last month, Michael found a foster family, and on Monday, he was officially discharged from the shelter.
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The halls are quiet, the toys are packed up and the empty state-run DHS shelter is a great thing for the agency.
“It's a big victory,” said OKDHS Director Ed Lake.
DHS is trying to get out of the business of running shelters and can now close the emergency shelter in Oklahoma City after finding a home for 7-year-old Michael.
He was the very last child at the Oklahoma City shelter trying to find a foster family.
“Thanks to Channel 9, we had about 100 calls for Michael,” Lake told News 9.
Michael is autistic and after three successful trial visits, a family has now taken him into their home.
DHS hopes the remaining callers can become foster families for other children.
“I hope all 99 others go through with the process,” Lake said.
Michael's story is part of a bigger overall reform for DHS under the Pinnacle Plan.
This time last year, an average of 288 kids were in Oklahoma shelters, state-run and privately-run shelters combined, on any given day.
Lake said that daily average has dropped to 162 thanks to more foster families and better decision-making in the field on whether to remove a child from a home.
“It's a chipping away process, we didn't get here overnight and we won't undo it overnight, but we are making extremely good progress,” Lake explained.
On Wednesday, DHS leaders will ceremoniously turn off all the lights at the Pauline E. Mayer shelter to show that the shelter is now closed.
The majority of the workers at the shelter still wanted to work with DHS and were reassigned to other jobs in the agency.