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In Stephens County 103 children are in out-of-home care. Only 20 foster homes exist in the community.
“Do the math,” Ashley Barker, with TFI Family Connections, said. “That’s a lot of kids and not near enough homes.”
TFI is an organization, based in Lawton, that focuses on recruitment and training of foster families. The organization is working to establish more foster homes in Stephens County because the need exists, but the response isn’t quite what is needed.
Barker said, every month 600 children are picked up by the Department of Human Services. With such a large number of children entering the DHS system, she said their need for foster families continues to grow.
Stephens County is no exception.
“We want to keep them within their community,” Barker said about children entering the DHS system. “We don’t want to pull them out of their schools, away from their friends and their families.”
Children who aren’t put with foster families are often put in children’s shelters. Barker said many shelters are overflowing because of the large number of children entering the DHS system every month.
Barker said TFI is attempting to decrease the number of children entering shelters by finding more people willing to create foster homes. She said the criteria for foster families is simple. People wanting to host foster children have to have a stable income that’s not dependent on the state and a working vehicle. Background checks, including motor vehicle records, are run. Marital status is not a factor.
She said the primary thing is to create a family environment at each foster home. She said the organization offers support to foster families at all times.
“We need more foster families here in Stephens County and surrounding areas,” Barker said. “We’re trying to build up new homes.”