Not Ready to Be a Foster Parent? ... No Problem!
OKLAHOMA CAPITOL -- Currently nearly 7,000 children live in foster care across Oklahoma and the need is great for more quality foster homes. But the Oklahoma Department of Human Services realizes that becoming a foster parent is a big decision and fostering isn’t for everyone. For those who recognize the need and want to help in other ways, there are many volunteer opportunities available to help Oklahoma’s foster children.
Donate to the Hartpence Scholarship Fund: Mary Louise Hartpence, a longtime employee of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, passed away in 1983 and left her $300,000 estate in trust to be used as a scholarship fund for children in OKDHS custody. Though this scholarship has helped hundreds of foster youth through the years, an increase in the number of foster children in Oklahoma who apply has depleted funds for the scholarship. To contribute to the Mary Louise Hartpence Scholarship Fund, please send donations to the Oklahoma Human Services Foundation, c/o the Hartpence Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 52946, Oklahoma City, OK 73125-2146. Please make sure all donations are clearly marked for the Hartpence Scholarship Fund.
Become a Tutor for Foster Youth: Beginning in October 2005, the OKDHS Tutoring Initiative started matching volunteer tutors with foster children grades eight through 12. Many of these children have been moved around or are struggling with behavioral problems as a result of abuse and neglect. Currently about 100 children have indicated a need for tutoring and the number is growing each day. Tutors are needed all over Oklahoma. If you would like to volunteer your time as a tutor, contact Elizabeth Heard at (405) 521-2277, or Elizabeth.Heard@OKDHS.org.
Become a Friend of a Child: Mentor a foster child through one-on-one contact. Friend of a Child mentors spend time with children ages seven and older. They build relationships, give foster children someone they can depend on and even provide overnight respite for foster parents. Becoming a Friend of a Child mentor requires training, a home assessment and a background check through the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations. Contact your local OKDHS Human Services Center to apply.
Donate Toys, Goods or Funds: The state of Oklahoma is the worst parent a child can have. Regardless of how much the employees of OKDHS care or how hard they work, at the end of the day it’s a government agency and not a home or a family. Because of this, there are things that state budgets don’t allow for that children need like prom dresses, caps and gowns for graduation, Christmas presents, funds to pay for summer camp and car seats, just to name a few. Where state budgets fall short of these needs, OKDHS relies on the generosity of Oklahomans to donate clothes, toys and beds for children placed in a relative’s home or even monetary donations. These little things mean so much to children in custody because it makes them feel like any other child, regardless of their circumstances. Contact your local OKDHS Human Services Center for a list of needs in your area.
Children with Children: These mentors help young mothers in foster care with prenatal and postnatal care, independent living skills and childcare and parenting skills. They help young mothers learn and understand how to be a mom. They support them while they make the transition into parenthood or life without their child. Contact your local OKDHS Human Services Center to apply.
Office Assistance: Because of large caseloads, OKDHS relies on the help of volunteers to assist in tasks like filing, helping transport children to court, therapy or visitation. Volunteering as an office assistant is also a great way to gain experience and begin a career in child welfare. Contact your local OKDHS Human Services Center and ask about volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer at Children’s Shelters: When children are placed into protective custody with OKDHS in the metro areas, they are taken to either the Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa or the Pauline E. Mayer Shelter in Oklahoma City. These two shelters routinely operate at capacity and receive children 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. Volunteers at the shelters do everything from rock infants, exercise with the children, do arts and crafts, help older children fill out job applications and even paint the children’s rooms. To volunteer at the OKDHS shelter in Oklahoma City, contact Melissa Beaver at (405) 767-2634, to volunteer at the Tulsa shelter, contact Reni Slepka at (918) 560-4803.
Whether it’s helping with emergencies, transporting children to medical appointments, assisting youth with finding a place to live after foster care or sharing job skills, children in care need help in countless ways. And who knows, after spending time with these great children you may find it hard to resist becoming a foster parent yourself.
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, or for more volunteer opportunities, please call 1-800-376-9729, or visit us at http://www.okdhs.org/. To report suspected abuse or neglect, call 1-800-522-3511, or contact your local OKDHS Human Services Center.