Oklahoma DHS needing thousands of new foster families for 2013 part of Pinnacle Plan

You could call 2012 the year of the foster parent.

It was a year in which all of the children in Oklahoma Department of Human Services custody under two years old didn't have to stay in a shelter -- instead staying with a foster family.

The change is all part of a major Oklahoma initiative called the Pinnacle Plan -- a five-year improvement project that will take incremental steps toward ensuring better child conditions.

PINNACLE PLAN DETAILS (http://bit.ly/PinnaclePlan)

With step one in the books, OKDHS is now focusing on the second proposed measure: that no child under six spend the night in a shelter by June 30.

The plan also requires an additional 2,000 foster families to host the children.

Ronda and Keith Davis didn't always plan to become foster parents, they say it's something they fell into. Five years later, they consider it a calling.

They've now fostered 24 children in addition to five children of their own.

"It opened our eyes in the process to the huge need, and before that we just had no idea," Keith Davis said.

When DHS takes a child into custody, they have two options: put them either in a foster home like the Davis' or send them to a shelter.

But if given the choice, shelters wouldn't be one at all.

"[A shelter] really is a nice place, however it doesn't have that feel and that comfort of waking up in a home with an adult there who you can look upon as a parent," said Ulysses Allen, a child welfare specialist in Tulsa.

Ronda Davis, who volunteers at a Tulsa shelter, agrees. She said it's something she's learned first-hand from one of her own foster children.

"She said, 'They're all so nice to me there, but there's no one there to call mommy. Can I call you mommy?'" Ronda Davis said.

Allen hopes more parents and families will remember the importance of fostering children.

"Just keep this at the forefront of our push in the 2013 year that 'hey, foster care is here and we need families, we need families and we need more families,"' Allen said.

For those interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please contact the Bridge Family Resource Center at okbridgefamilies.com or call 1-800-376-9729.

Those interested in a career as a Child Welfare Specialist should go to the OKDHS website and look under "Careers."

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