The Process - Foster Parent Certification in Oklahoma

Foster parents are referred to as "bridge parents" by OKDHS. From OKDHS publications, Bridge Resource Parents are: "Oklahoma parents who foster a child, have adopted a foster child or both. Bridge Resource Parents keep a child/children connected to their kin, culture, and community and mentor the child's family whenever possible." It's important to know what is expected of you when you begin this process. The process is intensive for good reasons. There is a high rate of abuse for children placed in foster care. Some foster parents should NOT be foster parents. It's a good thing that these safeguards are in place.

If you are a complete newbie to foster care, you need to know that no matter what agency you choose, you will still have to deal with/partner with DHS. They are legally responsible for the children and your agency is responsible for certifying foster parents. You will have a caseworker from your agency and each child/case has a caseworker from DHS who manages the case and will do home visits monthly to check on the children.

In Oklahoma, the certification process has been privatized, so your first step is to find an agency.  Below is not a complete list, but it is the extent of my knowledge.

  • Tribal Certification - If you're Native American, you can get certified through your tribe and take only tribal children. You need to have a roll card for this, but the degree of Indian blood is not important, at least in my experience. There is a great need for tribal foster parents. 
  • Private agencies - Tallgrass, St. Francis and Angels are 3 of the agencies that received a recent grant to contract more foster parents. I have heard good things about them all. Make sure to ask your agency if you are able to foster more than one child from different cases, if that is something you might desire. Some agencies view it as a benefit to only have one child/sibling group per family and for some it is, but for our family God called us to a different task and we are thankful that we were able to make that decision and it wasn't made for us. 
  • Therapeutic Foster Care - From the OKDHS website, "TFC is designed to serve children ages 3 to 18 with special psychological, social, behavioral and emotional needs who can accept and respond to the close relationships within a family setting, but whose special needs require more intensive or therapeutic services than are found in traditional foster care." I have no personal experience with this, but I know that it is greatly needed as well. SAFY is one of the organizations that provides therapeutic care in Oklahoma. 
After you find your agency, they will walk you step-by-step through the rest of the process which will include multiple homestudies, fingerprints, background checks, physicals and driving records. Homestudies include a walk through of your house to determine if it's safe and what needs to be changed to make it safe. They do not expect your house to be perfect. I would definitely clean up, but do not stress too much about this part. The rest of the homestudy is an insane number of weird personal questions including, but not limited to: your parents, your siblings and your extended family. It is normal to not know the answer to some of these questions. Just be honest. Last but not least, your, ahem, 27 hours of "training." Training needs to be revised. Some of it is helpful, but I do not believe it prepares you fully for being a foster/bridge parent. I recommend reading the Bible as often as possible to prepare you. :) Seriously. 

Once all of your paperwork, homestudies and training is complete, which usually takes 3-6 months, you will sign your contract and you should begin getting placement calls within a week if you live in the larger counties, like OK, Canadian, or Tulsa. It might take longer in the less populated counties, but I am not certain of an average timeline for them. You will receive your first monthly stipend 1-2 months later. They pay them a month behind. I know a lot of people are curious about the amount per child that you receive and in Oklahoma it varies from $400-$565 depending on the age of the child. I hope this information will encourage some of you to take the first step by taking some of the mystery out of the process.

Love this quote by Amber Smart from the OK Foster Care Forum on 4/24/14:

 "Don't let the process get in the way of your purpose."

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