Okla. foster homes fail children

The recent inspection failures in the vast majority of Oklahoma foster homes insult the meaning of what a home really is. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, 17 of the 22 group foster homes in the state of Oklahoma are in violation of at least one state safety requirement, not to mention that multiple homes had several infractions.
Over the last decade, the number of Oklahoman children in the foster care system has greatly fluctuated. In 2007, a new child welfare act was passed in Oklahoma, resulting in decreasing numbers of foster children until 2010. However, in 2011, a class-action lawsuit that the Children’s Rights Organization filed in 2008 caused a bout of foster care panic throughout the state, including a renewed and over-exaggerated scrutiny of the entire foster care system. This panic was responsible for the rapid increase of children placed in foster care since 2011. Currently, there are over 9,000 children in the foster system, approximately 160 of which are in group homes.
Specific violations uncovered in this latest inspection include expired fire extinguishers, broken glass on the floor and in the windows, mold, mildew and calcium buildup and even celery in non-functional refrigerators that had browned and rotted to the point of liquefaction. Furthermore, the vehicles on group home properties that are used to transport foster children were often reported to be missing windows, gas caps and seatbelts. Despite these blatant safety hazards, Kristi Simpson, statewide licensing coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, dismissed recommendations for state revisions to licensing and operating requirements for group home vehicles, thus illustrating the fault that lies within the foster care system in regards to the mistreatment of children they are supposed to be protecting and providing for.
I find it truly appalling that adults who supposedly commit themselves to caring for those who have no one looking out for them can sleep at night knowing that they haven’t come close to fulfilling the job they’ve taken on. People who have children, but can go to work and conduct inspections on conditions that they would be mortified to find their own offspring in, and then report them as satisfactory for hundreds of children that they’ve somehow detached from their responsibilities is completely baffling.
These children, born into the world completely innocent, are held responsible for the negligence of their parents. Or in other cases, are blamed for being surrendered to the foster care system even when the biological parents of said children were unfit to care for them and therefore thought it better for them to go to a loving home which they in fact will very rarely be placed in.
With the monetary incentive that goes along with running a group home, oftentimes those who run such homes aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their heart, but rather the depth of their pockets. More vigorous screenings for potential foster home coordinators should be implemented in order to work from the bottom up in reforming group homes. Furthermore, we need more foster parents. Oklahoma DHS communication manager Katelyn Burns says that there’s no such thing as too many foster parents. She goes as far as to say that if a day came where they had more foster parents than foster children, it would be a miracle.
According to many Tulsa foster parents, while foster care is certainly challenging, it is an extremely rewarding and heartwarming experience. Hopefully the Oklahoma DHS has put the foster care system under a watchful humanitarian and governmental eye, and we will see fewer kids in the system, and the children that are, will be properly looked after.

Post Author: Tori Gellman