Become A Foster Parent In Oklahoma
The Need for Foster Parents
In Oklahoma, there are over 7,000 children placed into out of home placement. There are less than 2,000 foster homes. This disparity means that children from your community are being placed outside of their home community, or in shelters.
Children who are placed outside their home community in one day lose their parents, family, school friends, teachers, coaches, and sense of connection to their community. They frequently miss school so they can have visits, or they don’t see family because they need to be in school. This sense of loss is compounded when they cannot be placed with their brothers and sisters due to placement homes no having enough room to accommodate siblings.
Foster parents are needed to take children of all ages. While 76% of children in care are under the age of 10, the hardest to find placement for are teenagers.
Foster parents who are willing to take sibling sets of 3 or more are greatly needed. Oklahoma needs over 400 families willing to take large sibling groups, according to OKDHS.
The Bridge Concept
An important role for foster parents is to work with (a concept known as “bridging”) the child’s birth family towards the goal of reunification, and if that goal fails, to commit to raise/parent the child or assist in transition to an adoptive family.
The foster parent helps children to maintain permanent connections with their birth family, while acting as a mentor for that family. Foster care is a service provided to the child’s entire family. Foster families come from the same community as the child, are willing to accept and agree to visitation and other types of contact with siblings, relatives, and other important people in the child’s life.
Bridging with the family helps children to achieve permanence more quickly while enabling them to maintain connections with those who are important in their lives. The ability to maintain connections, and achieve permanency more quickly reduces the level of trauma children in out of home care experience.
As a foster family, you may be asked to:
- Provide temporary care, love, and nurturance to children while serving as a mentor to their parent. This could include actively helping the parent improve on their parenting abilities. The foster parent assists in helping the children transition home, to a legal guardianship, or adoption by another family, while maintaining the children’s connections to their kin, culture and community.
- Serve as the legal guardian for children while maintaining the children’s connection to kin, culture, and community.
- Adopt the children while maintaining the children’s connection to kin, culture and community.
Foster Parents Contact with the Birth Family
OKDHS will determine through assessment what level of contact the child should have with the birth family. Every effort is made to ensure that contact between the child’s birth family and the child and foster parents is safe and positive. When possible, foster parents are encouraged to supervise visitation with the children, assist with transportation around visitation, and model appropriate behavior for the birth parents. This may mean allowing the child to use the phone to talk to their parent, while the foster parent listens in, or spending time with the child and their parents at a local park. When appropriate, some foster parents have allowed the parents to come into their home and help them with bedtime routines. Foster parents do have input into what level of contact they are comfortable with and are encouraged to share any concerns they have regarding this contact with their TFI worker and the OKDHS worker.
Requirements to be a Traditional foster parent in Oklahoma
- must have the ability to love, understand, care for and accept a child to whom they did not give birth
- must be at least 21 years of age and preferably no more than 55 years older than the child considered for placement
- have healthy relationships whether married, single, separated or divorced
- must be in good physical and mental health to provide for the needs of the child
- must have sufficient income to meet current expenses
- must be able to provide sufficient beds and bedrooms for additional children
- must submit to a search of all OKDHS records, including Child Welfare records
- Applicants and each household member, 18 years of age or older, submits fingerprints for a state and national criminal history records search
- must ensure that no household member has a prior conviction of any sexual offense
- must have a working telephone (this can be a cell phone)
- must be a legal resident
- must attend 27 hrs. of Guiding Principles for Resource Parents (TFI provides much of this online)
Types of Foster Parents
There are a number of different “types” of foster parents in Oklahoma. These include:
Traditional Foster families provide a safe and nurturing home and are committed to working with birth families to reunite children with parents. In the event that a child does not return home, foster families may become the permanent caregiver for the child either through adoption or permanent guardianship. These foster parents are encouraged to “bridge the gap” with the birth parents to provide mentoring and support.
Treatment Parents work with children with special psychological, social, behavioral, and emotional needs through providing behavioral modification treatment of the child in their home. Children in Therapeutic Foster Care can accept and respond to close relationships within a family setting yet have special needs which require more intensive or therapeutic services than are found in Bridge foster care. Therapeutic foster homes require additional intensive training. There must be at least one trained treatment parent available to the child 24 hours a day. Treatment foster parents work with the agency’s therapist or community providers to ensure the child’s treatment needs are met.
Adoptive Foster parents work only with children whose goal is adoption with the purpose of adopting the children placed into their home.
Tribal Foster Parents work with Native American children and families in compliance with federal and state regulations. Oklahoma tribes are responsible for certifying tribal foster homes. Tribal parents certified by their Tribe may be dually Tribal and OKDHS certified when the tribe agrees. Individuals may certify with their Tribe or with a private agency as they choose. TFI makes every effort to place Tribal children in OKDHS custody who are referred to us for placement in our homes or their Tribe’s homes with Tribal parents according to the Tribe’s preference in accordance with federal and state regulations.
Kinship Foster parents have a relationship already established with a child or sibling group of children in OKDHS custody. They become approved for that specific child/children. Kinship parents who are willing to care for additional children may become certified as Traditional Foster Parents.
The children and adults in the care of the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) have mental retardation and other developmental or physical disabilities. This means they will need support and care throughout their lives. Specialized Foster Parents are able to meet individuals needing services before taking them into their home to make sure they are compatible. Several visits routinely take place prior to a decision being made and an individual moving into the foster family’s home.
Specialized homes are approved through the Developmental Disabilities Services Division. Click here For more information.