There are almost 8000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system. Most of those are kids under 12 years old, and many of them also have brothers and sisters in the system. Needless to say, it is important for the state to recruit and retain foster parents so that all these children have loving and safe homes.
Foster parents are performing one of the most important, selfless acts that we can ask of our fellow Oklahomans. If you are a foster parent and are reading this, thank you for your service and the compassion you are demonstrating. If you are a foster parent, you also know that opening your home to a foster child can create serious strains on your family budget. As we approach the holiday season, many foster families struggle to afford presents for their foster children, as much as they would like to shower them with gifts and attention.
That’s why the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is proud to manage the OK Foster Wishes project, a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) and its Holiday Hope campaign. Through OK Foster Wishes, we help distribute more than 4,500 presents to children in foster care coming from over 60 counties across the state (the remaining 17 counties already have local gift drive programs). What’s more, these are presents that have been personally requested by each foster child through a “wish list” submitted to their DHS caseworker.
We are looking for Oklahomans who are willing to purchase gifts off of these wish lists, averaging about $75 per list, to help support the many thousands of foster families struggling to make ends meet. In addition, we need donors who will contribute financial support to help buy gifts for unfulfilled lists and also keep the program operating. If you would like to make a donation or receive a wish list, you can do so at OKFosterWishes.org starting next week (Monday, Nov. 11).
We normally start our OK Foster Wishes campaign on Nov. 1, so we are getting a late start this year. We hope our generous donors can help us make up for lost time!
I want to take a moment to write about why this program has been delayed, and to encourage Oklahomans to consider another way they can help those who are in-need.
Miranda, our OK Foster Wishes Program Director, is on temporary extended leave. She writes, “The past month has been incredibly difficult for my family. We were blindsided by the diagnosis of our oldest son with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer. We have been in the hospital since October 1st. We are soon to start his second round of chemo then will likely go to bone marrow transplant. We appreciate all of the love and support."
Miranda has a request for anyone who would like to help those fighting cancer: consider adding your name to a registry of potential bone marrow donors. There is an easy way everyone can get on the donor registry - and all it takes is a quick cheek swab. If you are so moved, go to Be the Match Bone Marrow Registry (bethematch.org) to learn how to be a donor.
Peyton Stacy, our OICA Office Coordinator, will be filling in for Miranda until she is able to return to work. If you would like to volunteer for OK Foster Wishes or have a question about the program, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you are moved to become a foster parent, please go to okdhs.org for more information. OK Foster Wishes was formed by many kindhearted souls with the ultimate goal of finding a foster home for every youth in need in our state. Working with DHS, you can learn what it takes to become a foster parent and make a real difference in the life of a child.
Thank you again for those strong supporters of the OK Foster Wishes program and the work done by OICA. Your help ensures the holidays are bright for Oklahoma's foster children!