Paul Rosino says all children deserve to be treated equally, including those in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
Rosino, a state senator, recently hosted a fishing event for children who are in foster care along with their foster families.
The event, held Sept. 12, was in collaboration with DHS, Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation as well as Oklahoma City police and firefighters.
“Every foster child deserves the same thing any other child gets,” Rosino said.
Rosino said 3-year-olds to teenagers attended the event.
To continue outdoor events like this, Rosino said they must find an area with a pond, so the children can participate in a safe activity.
Rosino came up with the idea in July and worked with the agencies involved to make it happen.
While other ideas for event activities are still in the works, the next one will be in October, he said.
“We will eventually do something in Yukon or Mustang because there’s so many foster children in the metro,” Rosino said.
Rosino is also working with wildlife Director J.D. Strong to determine what kind of events they can do during winter.
“We need to recognize how special these families are and that these families are
taking in children into their homes, who are not their biological children. Yet, they are taking care of them and giving them an opportunity they wouldn’t have had,” Rosino said. “Some of these foster families don’t have a lot of means themselves — they just have a love in their heart for children.”
As of Sept. 1, there were 262 Canadian County children in foster care, meaning they were removed from their biological homes.
Of those children, 137 were placed in Yukon, 50 in Mustang and 75 throughout Union City, Piedmont, Bethany, Oklahoma City and El Reno.
These children could have also been removed from homes not in the county, according to Casey White, a spokesperson for DHS.
Also, at the beginning of September, 167 foster homes were approved in Canadian County.
On the same day last year, there were 263 Canadian County children in DHS care.
As of Sept. 18, there are about 7,700 children in foster care throughout Oklahoma.
Last year, there were about 8,631 in the state, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.
In the state’s fiscal year of 2019, 15,809 children under 18 were confirmed to be victims of abuse and/or neglect, according to OKDHS’ 2019 annual report.
Child Welfare reports also indicated 4,673 children left state custody and were reunited with their biological families, adopted or placed in a guardianship situation.
The report also said Oklahoma saw a dramatic increase in the number of children who were placed in custody between 2011 and 2014, primarily due to neglect, not physical or sexual abuse.
More services being offered to families, where a child’s removal is higher, has helped to reduce increases in custody, such as Intensive Safety Services.
ISS licensed professionals help families with children from birth to 12 years old for about 10 hours per week for about six weeks.
The number of children entering DHS custody, those who are in foster care, inpatient care, trial adoption or trial reunification decreased this year by 95 percent since last year.
Children exiting custody also decreased by 93 percent.
As part of the general population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 956,000 children under 18 in Oklahoma in 2018.
There were 8,634 children in foster care Sept. 30, 2018. Of those, 2,238 were adopted.