Oklahoma is facing a foster parent shortage crisis; one foster mom is encouraging others to join

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Oklahoma’s child welfare services is facing a foster care crisis right now. They are in dire need of foster parents for the thousands of Oklahoma children who are currently in the foster care system.

One Oklahoma foster mom has advice for those who may be on the fence.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) officials say there are around 6,000 children in the foster care system today, but there are only 3,200 foster families to fill that need. One Oklahoma foster parent is now encouraging others to consider fostering.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch kids get taken from the only thing they’ve ever known… And I was like, Maybe I can do something about it,” said Katelyn Day, Oklahoma foster mother.

Katelyn Day says it’s been just over a year since she started fostering. There was one time she cared for up to four children at once. Right now, she is caring for one child long-term.

“I think if you’re on the fence, the best thing to do would be to meet a foster family, like see what they do. Walk with them a little bit. If you’re on the fence, don’t just jump in both feet in because it’s a little scary. But they’re just kids. They just need someone to walk with them,” said Day.

Ginna Waddell, a lead worker for a foster care recruitment unit with DHS says the biggest challenge right now is finding more foster families, especially ones who will take in sibling groups. Oklahoma has over 470 children across the state who have been separated from their brothers and sisters.

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DHS officials also say they are in need of specialized foster care parents for children with developmental disabilities.

“You’re not alone. We try to help. You have all the support you will need because, as Katelyn said, this is hard,” said Ginna Waddell, a lead worker for a foster care recruitment unit with DHS.

The shortage of foster parents is so significant that it is forcing children out of their communities, making it hard for them to see their biological families. It is also putting a strain on their mental health as they are being taken away from what they know and are comfortable with.

“That can be a huge shock for a child. If you take a child who’s from a rural setting and place them into an urban setting. Well, their school may have more people in it than their whole town had. And so, there’s another little bit of shock. And so, our goal is to keep them close to home… When we keep them close to home, we can have regular visitation with their families,” said Waddell.

Day says although it’s sometimes a hard job, at the end of the day, it’s rewarding.

“It’s just kids that need someone to love them. And kids can never have too many people that love them,” said Day.

If you are interested in being a foster parent, some qualifications you need are, you must be over the age of 21, have enough space and beds for the children you are fostering, and be able to pass a background check. To learn more about how to become a foster parent, click here.

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