Hoping to put a dent in what some have called a crisis, Governor Mary Fallin and other state officials announced they're hoping to recruit 1000 more foster and adoptive parents in Oklahoma by June of next year.
The new campaign is called Oklahoma Fosters. It's an add-on to the Pinnacle Program the Department of Human Services started in 20-12. That program has since fallen short of its original goals, plagued by an abundance of children in need and ever decreasing funds for the department.
“We have almost 11,000 children that are in some type of state custody in our state. That's way too any and they desperately need our help,” Fallin said to a crowd Thursday morning at the Oklahoma History Center.
“This is not going to be a good year to ask for more funds,” Said DHS director Ed Lake.
The new program may be in trouble before it even gets off the ground. State agencies have been asked to produce flat budgets as well as adding 1000 new foster homes could mean more money needs to pay staff and fund foster parents. Funds the state and agency may not have as the legislature looks toward a budget shortfall approaching $1 billion.
“We also have had to make changes to our own budget in DHS,” Lake said. “…savings in one place in order to fund these additional costs.”
In order to combat those additional costs, officials are turning to faith communities, churches and non-profits for help. They want communities of faith to call on their members to take in children out of kindness.
“Sometimes it's scary, but life can be scary and everything you go through is absolutely worth it. You think you're being a blessing to the children but really the children are being a blessing to you,” said Robin Roberson. She and her husband Steven adopted their two foster son and daughter after two years of taking care of them.
Their story also highlights another problem within the DHS foster-adoption system. The process is often lengthy and complicated for would be parents. The process often takes months for prospective parents to be approved by the state, something that can act as a deterrent for those looking to foster.
One of the biggest moments of applause of the announcement was after a crowd member asked Lake if something could be done about the process. Lake responded by saying they were “open to the idea” and it was something that would be worked on for the future.
Until then, DHS and Fallin are asking Oklahomans to put up flyers, send emails and texts to family and friends in order to recruit more potential foster families.