We wanted to share about a “scenario” that happened yesterday in our city.
A police officer picks up a youth because of suspicious activity during daylight hours in Tulsa. As the police officer does the investigation it is found out that the child is on the NCIC missing person list. The officer attempts to contact all listed information on the list and is not able to get a hold of anyone who is a contact for the child. The officer then proceeds to see if they can place the child in the Laura Dester Shelter because it is in the past a place where these children can go. Since the shelter is closed the child can not go there. The police officer then proceeds to call other youth shelters that are run by different private organizations. None are able to take this youth. Then the officer proceeds to contact the juvenile detention center as an option. Because the child has done nothing wrong they can not keep and advocate for the child. So what is the officer supposed to do? There are crimes to be prevented, research to be done, streets to be patrolled….. He/She opens the door to the patrol car and tells the child to get out…..
We don’t have an answer for these difficult “potential scenarios” but we believe that as a community we can figure these things out if given the option. If you care about child trafficking, if you care about vulnerable children, if we want to prevent the types of crimes that are daily on the cover pages of news and media outlets, then get involved. Get educated. Begin serving and learning more about these children in our local group homes and shelters. Foster, adopt, become a CASA worker, work in legislation, serve a local case worker, support a police officer or fire fighter knowing that the scenarios that they are in daily are sometimes more than they can handle. Don’t turn a blind eye, don’t wipe your hands and say that it is someone else’s problem because no child should ever “fall through the cracks.” Let’s make sure we have a plan and kids in our state have the best amount of care and opportunity available to them.
Today marks the official day that DHS plans to start “closing” the Laura Dester children’s shelter. Although operations will continue most likely for some months ahead, DHS’s plan is to see that no more children are admitted. We are excited about what this could mean for Oklahoma children. Our prayer has always been that no child would have to experience institutionalized care but can be placed in a safe and loving foster or kinship family. Although we believe we have one of the nicest shelter facilities and a great shelter staff we just know that this situation is just not ideal for these kids. We believe in the vision that no child in Oklahoma should be waiting for a family but rather families waiting on children.
So today marks the day that things begin to really change. As of last night children that typically go to the shelter were not able to go there. The hope is that there is enough foster families. Our concern is that there is still not enough right foster families that will be the best fit for the children in the shelter or entering the system. The most logical question that gets asked next is where will these children go? To be honest, we don’t completely have that answer yet. We want to assume that a plan is in place but ultimately we don’t know. We do know that we all are responsible as a community to see that a plan is not only in place but implemented on in a way that provides better care. So here are the questions that we are asking in the new world without a shelter and we hope you would ask too.
- Where are the children that get brought into protective custody going to go if there is no available foster family for them.
- What happens to children that run away from the shelter but then want to come back? Are they allowed to return and if not where will they go?
- Who bears the weight of both not having a shelter and not having enough right foster homes. Will it be our police department holding these kids in custody longer, a DHS case worker staying for long hours with a child until a home is found, a juvenile detention center?
- What has changed that has allowed us to be able to close the shelter now and not be able to in the past. One statistic that brings concern to us is the continual decline of foster homes that we have available from a height of 824 available homes in Tulsa in 2014 to less than 500 as of recent.
Lastly, don’t forget the almost 40 children that are still at our shelter. Although the shelter is not receiving additional children the children that are at the shelter need our support. So does its staff. If you are still looking for ways to volunteer we know they would love your help and if you are interested in being a foster or adoptive family we would love to connect you to the children in our state that need a family!
Here is the link to fill out our – Foster & Adoption Connection Form