It is no surprise to anyone that all states have a shortage of foster homes for the youth we need to serve. There are shortages at the traditional level of foster care and obviously at the higher levels of therapeutic foster care as well. As a result, children in state custody are often sent to ‘higher’ levels of care (i.e. congregate settings, group homes) when their individual needs could be served in a home setting in their own communities….if only we had more foster parents and more foster homes.
Last week Oklahoma took a big step that may ameliorate some of this shortage for this state. The legislatively appointed Foster Care Improvement Task Force approved recommendations for the next legislative session. One recommendation is to expand the state/tribal/private collaborations in the state around therapeutic foster care – which is contracted 100% to private licensed child placing agencies in partnership with the Department of Human Services. This expansion would allow child placing agencies to expand their services to all placement needs of foster youth: traditional foster care, emergency foster care, therapeutic foster care and kinship foster care.
It is the belief of the provider community and the Task Force that such expansion would increase community investment in ALL foster youth and allow private agencies to recruit more effectively for all levels of care. Goals of this expansion are to achieve shorter time to permanence, stability in placement, improved education and developmental achievement while in care, and develop greater involvement of local community resources in addressing the needs of foster youth.
The responsibility for ‘next steps’ now lies with the Legislature (and child advocates!) to advance such a proposal.
Good work by the volunteer Task Force! Exciting possibilities!