The Duncan Banner

April 29, 2013

Walk sheds awareness on foster kids’ plight

Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Jamie Slate, with Abba’s Hands, has a challenge with hopes of increasing awareness about the need for more foster parents in Stephens County. He was among the many people walking a mile Saturday for the second Walk a Mile in My Shoes event.

He talked about his experience as a foster parent, mentioning how foster parents can make a difference in the lives of children. He said the most beneficial foster households are those where both the husband and wife are involved.

“These little ones need a positive male role model,” Slate said. “I challenge the guys out here to step up.

“You may not save the world, but you can save some of the kids in our neighborhood.”

And after Saturday’s event, some members of the Stephens County community might have a better appreciation for foster parents and children, after walking a mile while hauling luggage.

The Abba’s Hands organization held its second Walk a Mile in My Shoes event in Fuqua Park. People in attendance did walk that mile to represent a foster child moving from home to a foster home. The event is focused on foster care awareness.

“The Walk a Mile walk started in Oklahoma City,” Charlsie Harty, Abba’s Hands coordinator and event co-coordinator, said. “We partnered with them to bring one here.”

The first Duncan walk took place in 2011. As with that year, participants brought suitcases, duffle bags and shoes for their mile travel. Those items were collected by Abba’s Hands to either go toward the Department of Human Services or to be used by Abba’s Hands.

Harty said the walk is important because it brings attention to the need for foster parents. In all, there are 111 foster children in the area. There are only 22 traditional foster homes in Stephens County.

Cecil Boydston, DHS district director, said there are not enough homes in the county to care for the children in need of homes. Boydston said children in foster care are usually taken away from their parents because of abuse or neglect. But finding them homes can sometimes be tricky.

“It would be ideal if they didn’t have to leave their school or leave their friends,” Boydston said. “Ideally, we would have more homes than children.”

In addition to Abba’s Hands workers, the event also received help from the Immanuel Baptist Church youth group.

The two groups posted individuals along the mile long path to help keep everyone on the right path back to the park.

Thursday, May 2, will be Foster Care Day, and Adoptive Association of Oklahoma at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. It will be from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled as guest speaker.

The event is aimed at raising awareness about the urgent need for foster care homes across the state. More than 9,000 children and youth are in foster care because their own families are in crisis and are unable to provide for them.

“Foster parenting is filled with challenges and opportunities,” says Lana Freeman, FCAO President. “It can be challenging to parent children with difficult histories. Becoming a foster parent is an opportunity to care for children who benefit greatly from your love and support.”

“Whether you are married or single, live in an apartment or a house, have a stay-at-home partner or not, you can be a foster parent,” says Freeman. “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.”