In 2016, nearly 10,500 children lived in Oklahoma state custody. While the number is more than 1,000 fewer children than 2015, the Oklahoma Fosters Initiative is continuing its efforts to recruit more foster families so every child in Oklahoma can have a home.
According to the Oklahoma Fosters Initiative, more than 60 percent of children in state care are under the age of 12, less than 50 percent of children leaving the system finish high school and 42 percent are homeless for at least one night within twelve months of exiting the system.
“I think stability and love is probably two of the biggest things that foster parents provide,” Oklahoma Christian University Chapel Coordinator and adoptive parent Brian Plumb said. “They allow children to feel what home is like and aid in their development process. All ages of children need someone to show them how to love. So many emotions are involved in living life and without a home it is hard to know how to process them all.”
Since the introduction of Oklahoma Fosters in 2012, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said the Department of Human Services recorded an all-time high of 160 families in one month entering the certification process to become foster parents.
“In 2012, Oklahoma recognized it had a crisis when it came to its foster care system and children in state custody,” Fallin said. “DHS is employing lots of strategies to reduce the numbers of kids in foster care and try to prevent children from coming into care when safely possible, but there are still many children who are in dangerous circumstances that must be removed and need loving homes. For this reason, we must recruit new foster families.”
Memorial Road Church of Christ Young Adults Minister Travis Akins began fostering children in 2010. Since then, he has cared for nine foster children in his home.
“I didn’t want to foster originally and I came up with every reason not to,” Akins said. “It was several months later and I started paying attention to the possibility or reasoning that maybe my calling isn’t supposed to be always easier. I have had children who have been really hard and made me uncomfortable. There were several instances when a child would leave our home and we would think, ‘Maybe we should be done fostering. We’ve done good stuff.’ Now, it is so much of a calling for us.”
Junior Rebecca Deckman said she has had nine different foster siblings in the two years since her family became a foster family, and even met the biological siblings of the children in her home.
“The fostering system has shaped my life in more ways than I can count,” Deckman said. “Two years ago, before my family started fostering, I had no idea what these children were going through and how big the need for good foster homes is. Before, it seemed like a distant problem, an almost an out-of-sight, out-of-mind situation. Now, because of my experience with my foster siblings, I am dedicating my life to showing foster children that Jesus loves them and died for them too.”
Janell Huntsman, the administrative assistant for Oklahoma Christian’s College of Business, has been a foster parent for the last seven years and has taken care of 12 babies, some for only a few days and others for over a year.
“It’s the hardest job you will ever love,” Huntsman said. “It is very emotional, but the rewards and what you are doing for those kids is worth it. It has made me more empathetic and more understanding of situations. I am way less judgmental than I used to be about situations where the birth parent is taking drugs or not taking care of their kids. They’re still human beings and you can’t just write them off just because of bad decisions.”
Oklahoma Fosters is still looking for individuals or families who qualify to become certified to be a foster parent. Those who are interested can begin the certification process online.
“I think many begin to think about doing it and come up with a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t,” Plumb said. “It’s easy to talk yourself out of it as many situations are not ideal. You will receive a lot more than what you give. I think as Christians we have to think about how we can provide support. I think we have to ask how we can bring light to these problems. Even if you don’t adopt or foster, how can you bring light?”