OKLAHOMA CITY - Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services say they are struggling to find foster homes and adoptive homes for children with disabilities.
For Whitney Hollingsworth and her husband, becoming foster parents seven years ago was part of a higher calling.
"All of these kids are removed from their families, so you know they're experiencing a level of trauma and have a lot of emotional distress from being removed from their families and people they care about in their community,” Whitney Hollingsworth said.
They've fostered more than 40 children, including about a dozen with disabilities. They say that wasn't part of their original plan, but they learned as time went on.
Whitney credits free resources from DHS and the community for being able to continue.
“We were really lucky along the way to have a DHS nursing team, and social workers who were ready to dig in, doctors, school professionals, medical professionals who were able to give us guidance,” Hollingsworth said.
DHS will close the last state-run shelter in Tulsa at the end of this month.
Right now, many children under DHS custody with disabilities are going to partner providers, like the J.D. McCarty Center in Norman and Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany.
"There are several facilities throughout the state where our children are placed. and of that. maybe over 100 placed in that have a medical diagnosis, a behavioral health diagnosis, a physical or intellectual disabilities,” Mason Rodgers, OKDHS Child Welfare Specialist Supervisor, said.
However, they're running out of room and need to find more foster parents to take in children with special needs.
"All kids thrive in a family. Kids do better when they have structure and routine and there's not a shift change, where you have the same people," Rodgers said.
Whitney and her husband have fallen in love with these children so much over the years, they decided to adopt 5-year-old Archer.
"You know, there's lots of things. She's had PICC line antibiotics that you have to be given every six hours, and she's had a 10-hour neurosurgery and a 12-hour spine surgery, but she's perfect and our family wouldn't be complete without her,” Hollingsworth said.
A loving family giving this little girl a place to call home.
If you’re interested in fostering, call the foster parent hotline at 1-800-376-2979 or visit https://okfosters.org/.
You may also visit http://www.okdhs.org/services/foster/Pages/FosterCareHome.aspx for more information.