Bill aimed at giving foster parents more rights moving forward at state Capitol

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A proposed bill aimed at strengthening resources and collaboration with the Department of Human Services is moving forward.

Ashley Kehl grew up with parents who fostered kids.

"When the children that were in their home would experience a first, whether that was a first taste of cotton candy or a popsicle of some sort," Ashley Kehl said.

Seeing those moments first hand ignited her own passion to be a foster parent.

She describes it as a rewarding experience with challenges along the way.

"When children come into care, you know only a small percentage of what they've seen, what they've experienced," she said.

A new bill being proposed would give parents like Kehl more information on the child's history.

Senate Bill 727 would also decrease the liability for foster parents whose foster child wants to play a sport.

"That's basically treating foster parents as what they are...regular parents so if the foster child wants to play football or baseball, then we don't have to go through a bunch of rigmarole to get permission for that,” Director of OKDHS Ed Lake said.

Right now, safety concerns make it a difficult hurdle.

The measure would also give more decision-making powers to a foster parent when a child is transitioning to a new home.

"Making sure that everybody who has a vested interest in that child's case is in the room at the same time, sharing information and working on goals together,” Republican State Senator A.J. Griffin said.

Kehl agrees.

"I am an advocate for these children. I am a voice for these young children who can't talk. They can't voice their frustration or their sadness fully, but I've been with them long enough to where I can contribute to any ideas or thoughts that I have down the road planning for them."

Senator AJ Griffin was a foster parent herself and hopes this bill will help the foster parent retention rate.

"We were losing foster families because of the lack of support. Invest all of this money to get them trained and ready to go. Then they care for one child and stop."

The measure now heads to the House for consideration as early as next week.

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