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OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 19, 2021) – November is recognized as National Adoption Month. During this time, Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) and partner agencies celebrate children leaving foster care to find permanency in their forever homes as well as the families and staff who make that permanency possible.
The primary goal of foster care is to provide a nurturing home for children while their families develop the skills and supports needed to sustain their family after reunification. In addition to the services provided by OKDHS and partners, foster families also provide critical support and encouragement to biological families. When reunification isn’t possible, OKDHS is responsible for finding children a permanent home, often through adoption. In Fiscal Years (FY) 2017 through 2021, over 94 percent of children adopted from OKDHS were adopted by their current foster parents. In FY21, 1,896 children were safely reunited with their families, the highest percentage of exit to reunification in many years. In addition, 1,353 adoptions were finalized and 301 legal guardianships were established.
“Oklahoma’s foster families, our staff and partners help children and their biological parents discover and amplify the strengths they already have within,” said Dr. Deborah Shropshire, OKDHS Child Welfare Director. “We know success is possible and we see it every reunification story. But, we also know if a successful reunification cannot happen, our foster families will step forward to help our kids process their loss and create a new ending to their story – one where the kids are the heroes of their own story because they had some great sidekicks along the way.”
David and KC Koonce were recently recognized with an Angels in Adoption award by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute due to their dedication in keeping sibling groups together and advocating for the biological families they have served. As a child welfare supervisor herself, KC understands the importance of the sibling connection for children in foster care.
The Koonce family has fostered 19 children over the last four years, including a sibling set of seven, and has adopted three children. They credit the combined support of their family, church, friends and the Anna’s House Foundation in their ability achieve their calling and have kept four sibling groups together during their time as foster parents.
“As long as there is a need, I know we will continue to foster,” said KC. “It brings us so much joy to be a part of this journey where entire communities wrap their arms around biological, foster and adoptive families. We know there are more families out there, just like us, who are ready to spark hope by providing children and families with the resources and support they need so each child can truly flourish. By working together, we can achieve so much for Oklahoma’s children and families.”
Dr. Bonni Goodwin, the OKDHS Statewide Coordinator of Adoption Preservation Services and Research Associate in the Center for Child Welfare Training and Simulation at the University of Oklahoma (OU), recently received an Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Through her roles with both OKDHS and OU, Dr. Goodwin provides training and consultation support specifically on adoption competent mental health services for child welfare workers as well as mental health practitioners across the state.
“There are many children who find permanency through adoption in Oklahoma, whether through kinship adoption, being adopted by their foster family, or meeting new parents who welcome them into their home for the first time,” said Goodwin. “It is imperative for these children and families to receive the best support and services we can provide through our child welfare workforce as well as Oklahoma’s mental health community. Adoption presents unique challenges as the child continues to grow and understand their own adoption story. I am honored and privileged to link arms with the incredible professionals at OKDHS and our state’s mental health community to provide this critical specialized support.”
“Whether you’re a foster parent, a social worker, a business leader or just someone who is interested in helping children and families live their best lives, everyone can support foster care and adoption in a way that makes an impact and is meaningful to them,” said Shropshire. “We can’t do this work alone and need people in every community across the state to join us in serving and protecting Oklahoma’s children and families.”
For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call 800-376-9729 or visit https://okfosters.org/.
Interested Oklahomans may also visit https://www.ourokdhs.org/s/ to raise their hand and join the agency’s efforts to better serve the community through innovation and collaborative partnerships.