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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

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For Immediate Release: May 6, 2008

Legislators and officials pose with shoes on Capitol steps.
Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, Foster Care Association of Oklahoma Executive Vice President and Event Coordinator Lana Freeman, Rep. Susan Winchester, DHS Director of the Children and Family
Services Division and DHS Director Howard Hendrick

Sen. Wilcoxson
Sen. Wilcoxson talks to reporters about her experience as a foster mother.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins & Sen. Wilcoxson
Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and Sen. Wilcoxson speak at "Heart and Soles" rally.

Group Puts “Heart and Soles” into Supporting Oklahoma Foster Children

Foster and adoptive parents along with child advocates gathered at the State Capitol Tuesday to rally for Oklahoma’s 12,000 foster children. Several hundred pairs of shoes dotted the south steps as a small representation of those children. The Foster Care Association of Oklahoma, Inc. (FCAO) collected the shoes throughout April as part of their “Heart and Soles” program to help raise awareness about the needs of the state’s foster care system.

“May is National Foster Care Month and as part of that we wanted to come to the Capitol to help raise awareness about the needs of the foster care system. Our state leaders need to understand that children are our state’s greatest asset and resource,” said Lana Freeman, FCAO Executive Vice President “Legislative priorities need to reflect the importance of supporting children, particularly children in foster care.”

The FCAO is requesting a 25 percent room and board increase for all foster children. Freeman pointed out that in 2006 foster children received a $1 raise – the first raise in 30 years. The Department of Human Services (DHS) began giving families money for clothes that year instead of vouchers, a move that saved the agency money but as Senator Wilcoxson pointed out is providing less money for children each year.

“As a foster parent, my husband and I know the challenging and severe hardships faced by foster families and the birth families. These children must go through the traumatic experience of being taken away from their families - regardless of the horrible circumstances - and placed in new homes with new people, different expectations and unfamiliar surroundings,” said Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City. “We are asking the
generous and compassionate people of Oklahoma and the legislature to not forget nor ignore the emotional, physical and education needs of these thousands of children.”

There are over 12,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system, but only 2,643 licensed family foster homes. Oklahoma’s current monthly foster care rates include $365 for children up to the age of five, $430 for those from six through twelve and $498.33 for those thirteen years and older. A national research study has established Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children (Foster Care MARC) for all 50 states. According to MARC, Oklahoma’s foster care rates must be increased by up to 53% in order to cover the real costs of providing care for children.

"We need to work on improving our foster care system. We're dealing with children's lives and their futures. Kids are sometimes bounced from home to home, or worse, into shelters, because we simply don't have enough foster homes," said Winchester, R-Chickasha. "Foster families provide safe, nurturing homes for so many children who desperately need them. It is vital that we support them - financially, structurally, and emotionally - and thank them for all they do."

Having inadequate reimbursement rates takes a heavy toll on foster parent recruitment and retention. Due to the shortage in funds and foster parents, nine percent of Oklahoma’s foster children are placed in facilities rather than family foster homes. On average foster children spend nearly two years in the system and will live in four different homes.

“We started this campaign with one thing in mind – to bring our foster children to life through shoes. For legal reasons, these children couldn’t come to the Capitol, so the public and legislators couldn’t see their faces, but today they got to see their hearts and soles and I hope it made a powerful impact on them,” said Freeman.

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Background: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has requested $6,697,000 to increase foster care rates to $18/day ($558/month); $9,439,000 to increase adoption assistance rates to $18/day. OKDHS is further requesting $3,297,000 to hire 68 new child welfare workers in order to bring case loads closer to the national average. Total request: $19,433,000

For more information contact:
Senator Wilcoxson's Office:  (405) 521-5618

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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