In the middle of COVID-19, about 7,500 kids in Oklahoma are between homes in foster care.
The virus has kept many of them from seeing their biological parents. However, a three-phase plan is returning regular meetings between children and their birth parents.
“Parents don't lose their rights just because a child is in foster care,” DHS Director of Child Welfare Services Dr. Deborah Shropshire said.
She said that’s why they are working to reinstate those visitations.
The Department of Human Services said the first phase that began May 1 was to take a step back, letting foster parents, birth parents and children make their own health and safety decisions.
“I was hearing a story about a teenager who was in foster care who had a job in food service, and so she could go to work every day and work as an essential worker but she could not see her mom that did not make sense we were kind of in the way,” Shropshire said.
The department began phase two Friday, giving case workers face masks, asking screening questions before visits facilitated by case workers, and regularly sanitizing meeting rooms.
“We've shifted from thinking about the during COVID and after COVID to this idea of phases,” Shropshire said.
Phase three which included returning face-to-face visits with case workers is set to begin June 1.
“The ultimate goal of foster care is to protect children, but also then to really return them home into a stronger family, and we don't really want to let this virus delay that to the point that that never happens,” Shropshire said.