LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -The Department of Human Services reached a milestone in their Pinnacle Plan with less than 10,000 children in the system, but workers say their ultimate goal still hasn't been reached.
The state also announced that they've reached their goal of getting 1,000 new foster homes. While the number of children in state custody is finally below 10,000 for the first time in three years, DHS workers said their work won't be complete until all the kids have a place to live.
The children who are in state custody are assigned to live in a state-run shelter if there aren't enough foster homes available, which can be even more of a drastic change for children.
"I think a home setting is what helps the child instead of, you know, placing them in a setting," Smith said. "You know, we already gotta remove them from their home and we try to keep them as comfortable as possible and a home setting would be best."
Smith said while their numbers aren't as high as they'd like, they have irreplaceable foster parents in the system.
"We have really, really good foster parents within our area and across the state that not only work with the children," Smith said. "But they also work with the families and they really push for reunification and they help those families and those parents work with that they need to and then it becomes an even bigger support for the children."
Toni Scarfone is a local foster parent who said she was once an orphan and that's why she's opened her doors for the past 16 years.
"I wish I could do more," Scarfone said. "Like I tell DHS, if you got kids who don't have a place or can't find a placement, I said, just bring them to me. Like the little boy here, he don't have nobody who wants to take him so I took him."
While the child she is speaking about only is spending a short time at Scarfone's house, he said that this is the best foster home he's ever stayed at. Scarfone said her goal is to get them back home but if they can't happen, they can stay with her. She wants other families to try opening their homes as well.
"I wish they would try," Scarfone said. "They're going to love you once they get to know the kids and they love it."
Smith said even though the state goal was reached, they've still got work they need to do.
"To me, a goal would be reached if we don't have any more need," Smith said. "That we have enough foster homes to cover whatever need that need. We don't have kids going from a whole another you know, 3 and 4 hours away because we can't find these homes locally."
Right now, in Comanche and Cotton county, they have a total of 145 foster homes and over 400 children that are in the state custody in those two counties.