DURANT – May is National Foster Care Month. Choctaw Nation Children & Family Services Department operates the tribe’s Foster Care Program. The tribal program joins other offices and agencies across the country this month in acknowledging foster parents, family members, volunteers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help. There always are children in the foster care system who need to find permanent homes and connections.
National Foster Care Month also is a time to focus on ways to assist the more than 900 Choctaw children and youth in foster care across the state of Oklahoma. Today 236 of those children reside within the 10.5-county Choctaw Nation service area of southeastern Oklahoma. The reasons for young people being in foster care is wide ranging – broken homes, imprisoned parents, neglect, environmental and emotional concerns, to name a few.
Choctaw Nation Children & Family Services Department requirements for a “foster home” include, either the husband or wife to be an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. This is a recent change from requiring membership in the Choctaw Nation, said Larry Behrens, supervisor of Choctaw Nation Adoption and Foster Care Program.
Among other requirements, parents must be 21 years of age and must submit to a search of all state and national criminal history records. Also, the family must reside in Oklahoma.
As for who makes a good foster parent, Kathryn F. DeCaire, Foster Care Recruiter for the Choctaw Nation, said, “You must have the emotional, physical, and financial abilities to provide for a child’s needs,” adding that there will be plenty of help. “It’s very simple, and you receive consideration and care throughout the whole process.”
While the paperwork process takes approximately three months to complete, finding a “forever home” is all a case by case basis.
“The children range from newborn to 18 years of age,” DeCaire said, and, “Yes, all of the children are Choctaw.”
Families that are meeting the requirements who are interested in becoming a foster family and home, or would like more information about the program, should contact DeCaire at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-522-6170 ext. 2643. The mailing address is Choctaw Nation Children & Family Services Department, Foster Care Program, P.O. Box 1210, Durant, OK 74702.