Governor Mary Fallin announced that her Oklahoma Fosters initiative has achieved its goal of recruiting more than 1,000 new foster families.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services also reports that the number of children in state custody has dropped below 10,000 for the first time in three years, according to a news release.
It's the first time DHS has reached its foster care recruitment goal since the Pinnacle Plan was launched in 2012 to reform the state's foster care system.
DHS’s official goal for the 2016 fiscal year was 1,054 new foster families. The agency is still validating the final numbers, but preliminary figures show more than 1,070 new families were certified during the year.
DHS Director Ed Lake said it took a team effort to reach the state’s foster care recruitment goal, according to the release.
“We are grateful for the support of Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma Fosters initiative, and thankful for the thousands of compassionate foster families who provide loving homes to our children every day,” said Lake. “I often say that DHS cannot do this work alone. This has taken the government, working alongside faith, non-profit and business partners in every community to achieve this recruitment goal.”
The number of children in state care had been steadily climbing since the start of the Pinnacle Plan in 2012, peaking at 11,317 on October 27, 2015. On July 6, there were 9,906 children in care.
Lake said there are two main reasons for the decrease: DHS’s investment in more resources to help keep kids with their families safely and avoid removals when possible; and DHS’s efforts to help children exit the system, either by safely reunifying them with biological families or finding adoptive homes or appropriate guardianships.
“I commend Ed Lake and his team at DHS for their efforts to safely reduce the number of children in state custody,” said Fallin. “I know it takes a multi-faceted approach to keep kids safe, to only have children in the system who truly need to be there and to help kids get back home or to another permanent home as quickly as possible.”
Governor Fallin and DHS launched the Oklahoma Fosters initiative in November with the stated goal of recruiting more than 1,000 new foster families to better serve children in state custody.
It coordinates efforts involving faith, government, business and local communities to solve the foster care crisis in Oklahoma.
In addition to continuing recruitment efforts for both foster and adoptive families, Oklahoma Fosters plans to expand minority outreach and increase awareness in the business community.
Oklahomans may get involved by going to the Oklahoma Fosters website and clicking on “Foster Care & Adoption” for information on being a foster or adoptive parent. They also may call the foster parent hotline, 1-800-376-9279.