McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

May 16, 2014

Foster care families needed

Meeting scheduled to explain volunteer opportunities and support systems available

STILLWATER, Okla. —

“Whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name, welcomes Me.”

Matthew 18:5

There are more than 10,000 Oklahoma children in foster care. Those children, the families providing homes for them and the need for even more families to step forward will be the focus of an informational meeting from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Stillwater First United Methodist Church Family Life Center Room 107-109.

“Current foster parents will be there to tell their experiences and answer questions,” said Vickie Karns, a volunteer coordinator.

Attending the meeting is not a commitment but a chance to learn more about the process to be certified and to ask questions of those who have been there. Candace Morton, a Circle of Care family specialist, will explain the foster parenting certification process and moderate a question and answer session at the meeting. To request child care during the meeting, call 405-372-5854. More information about the certification process is also available at 1-866-978-2956.

The Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care has partnered with state Department of Human Services contractors to recruit and support foster families. They developed the program Child S.H.A.R.E. - Shelter Homes: A Rescue Effort. Many have room in their homes and Child SHARE hopes to find families with room in their hearts to help these children.

“We want to help more people understand the challenges and the rewards of opening their hearts and homes to children who are in tremendous need of a stable, loving environment,” Morton said. “When the trauma happens, we want to have a quality home ready to greet the child.”

The initiative stems from the Pinnacle Plan where organizations have contracted with DHS to meet goals outlined after a negotiated settlement between the agency and the nonprofit Children’s Rights, which filed a federal class-action lawsuit in 2008 alleging abuses of children in foster care. The agreement was reached in early 2012, and the five-year plan was implemented in August 2013. There are 15 areas of improvement with the number of available foster homes a critical factor. Several faith-based organizations such as Circle of Care have stepped up to help. The need is great with the latest DHS Pinnacle Plan monitoring report revealing only a net gain of 50 homes last year while the goal was 615.

“If your family has considered adopting, but are just not sure, this is an opportunity to consider,” said Leanne Chaffin who has served as a foster parent before.

Foster Care was created to provide a home for children put into DHS custody due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or incarceration of their parents. When a child is removed from these situations, they are taken to a shelter to wait for an available foster home. Foster care allows these children to live in a loving environment. Children stay in a foster home until they are reunited with their parents or a permanent home is found.

Chaffin and Karns have set up a Child SHARE Co-op across the street from the First United Methodist Church. The co-op will provide support to foster families recruited in Stillwater. Clothes and equipment are available for the families to get what they need at no charge when a foster child comes to their home. The church sees the families “at promise - believing love and acceptance heals hurting that can be mended by no other means but through His perfect love.”

 

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