LAWTON, OK (TNN) - According to DHS there are over 8,000 children in the foster system across Oklahoma, including close to 330 in Comanche County alone.
Every time DHS picks up another child needing a place to stay, they start making calls to regular foster families immediately. That's where people like Deborah Zapata and Emily Lock come in.
“I have been a foster parent for almost 6 years," said Deborah Zapata.
“I’m a single mom and didn’t really think I could foster or anything like that, and then talking with her I realized I could, so I got involved and I’ve been doing it for three years,” said Emily Lock.
After 6 years involved, Zapata has adopted three of the foster kids to be a part of her family. Both of them said they get calls very regularly, and both have fostered babies less than a week after they were born. Zapata said getting attached was tough, but it’s just part of showing these kids the love they deserve.
“Attach with those kids, put your heart in it, and if they go home that’s amazing. That’s the ultimate goal is for kids to go home if safe and possible,” said Zapata.
When Senator Paul Scott authored this bill, he said that he knew people with foster children and realized how expensive it was for them. He said he hopes this tax credit will help add more families to the foster care program.
“There’s some people that may not have the means to be able to do this but want to do it. This would give them the ability, give them that little extra edge to be able to be foster parents,” said Senator Scott.
When people sign up to become foster parents, the process costs little money. It’s after the children arrive where the costs begin to add up.
“Depending on what the child’s involved with as far as activities, or additional needs that the child may have. So, our foster parents are reimbursed on a monthly basis. They receive a stipend for caring for these children, just to offset the cost a bit,” said Ashley Barker, a foster care worker at TFI.
Regardless of the expense or not, Lock believes more money shouldn’t be the reason people choose to be foster parents.
“I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the kids. I feel there should be more foster parents like that instead of coming in for the money,” said Lock.
Zapata said the process is long but extremely rewarding. And she said she hopes more people are willing to go through that to provide help for this large number of foster kids.
“If your home is safe, and your home is inviting and loving, and you are a good person, can pass a background check and you can love kids. That’s what’s most important," said Zapata.
Senator Scott said throughout the process he hasn’t seen any pushback, and hopes it moves the house quickly.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent here are some helpful links: