Monday, December 7, 2015
We are in the midst of the holiday season. It’s one of my favorite times of the year because it means getting together with family. The First Gentleman and I have six children between us, and at times it can be hectic keeping up with everything that is planned in our family. But I wouldn’t trade those busy times for anything.
I can’t image what it would be like to be separated from family during the holidays. Or worse yet, have no family.
But there are nearly 11,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system. These children are in state custody through no fault of their own. They need foster families to love and support them during their time of need.
So I’m asking Oklahomans during this season of giving if they can provide this ultimate gift of love.
Last month I helped the Department of Human Services (DHS) launch a program called Oklahoma Fosters. It’s a renewed effort to find foster families for the hundreds of children in state custody and coming into state custody.
Oklahoma Fosters is a statewide campaign uniting state, tribal and local governments, businesses, nonprofits and the faith-based community to end the foster care crisis in Oklahoma.
The first goal of this campaign is to help DHS recruit more than 1,000 new, safe, loving foster families statewide by the end of June 2016.
We’re off to a terrific start. More than half of the 309 foster care inquires made to DHS in the two weeks following our Oklahoma Fosters kickoff were about the initiative.
I realize that being a foster or adoptive parent is a huge commitment, and may not be a possibility for all. But if being a foster or adoptive parent isn’t something you can commit to now, you can still get involved. You can pass out fliers in church, talk to your friends and neighbors or post about Oklahoma Fosters on social media.
You can help out a foster or adoptive family by supporting them whenever you can. Make a meal for the family or help take a foster child to school.
You can get involved by going to the Oklahoma Fosters website – OklahomaFosters.com – and clicking on “Foster Care & Adoption” for information on being a foster or adoptive parent. You also may call the foster parent hotline, 1-800-376-9729.
You may recall that in 2012 Oklahoma recognized we had a crisis when it came to our foster care system and children in state custody. In response, we launched the Pinnacle Plan, which has a variety of goals intended to improve services for Oklahoma’s vulnerable children, increase safety and prevent abuse and neglect. It has been successful on several fronts, but unfortunately, what the Pinnacle Plan has not been successful in achieving is perhaps its most important goal: reducing the number of children in state custody and getting them into safe and loving homes.
With your help we can ensure that no child is ever waiting for a safe, loving home again. Not only can becoming a foster parent prove to be a rewarding experience, but more importantly, it will change the life of a child for the better.
Let’s make Oklahoma a place where no child is waiting for a safe, loving home.