OK Foster Wishes calming fears after former volunteer charged with embezzlement

NORMAN, Okla. – The CEO of an organization that helps foster children is speaking out after a former volunteer was charged with embezzlement.

Oklahoma Foster Wishes helps raise money, and buys and collects gifts to give to children in foster homes over the holidays.

According to Norman police, Stephanie Ann McElhaney was an administrative assistant at Oklahoma Foster Wishes when she stole nearly $23,000. She is charged with felony embezzlement.

Joe Dorman, the CEO of the new OK Foster Wishes, says they help nearly 8,000 children in foster care in Oklahoma.

“Just to think that someone would steal that money, and take those gifts away from kids, foster kids especially, that’s just horrible to think about,” Dorman said.

According to newly released court documents, McElhaney “purchased nearly $23,000 worth of merchandise through five merchants using the business debit card” belonging to OK Foster Wishes. The charges were made between March and August 2017. Dorman said only about $2,500 was left when she was found out.

Since then, Dorman says they have added more financial safe guards, including audits conducted by the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy.

“Any of the donations that they gave October of last year, everything completely was covered by an audit,” Dorman said, “and those donations did go to the foster kids.”

Now, Dorman is trying to calm fears that were created by the allegations.

"First, we want to make sure our donors and supporters understand that the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy began its management of the OK Foster Wishes program in October of 2017. Our staff and our operation have no overlap with the original OK Foster Wishes non-profit, and the individual accused of embezzling has no association with our organization and no association with OK Foster Wishes since September 2017.

Second, we want to offer you our ironclad assurances that any money or resources donated to OK Foster Wishes after October of 2017 was used for its intended purpose. We are extremely proud of the work we have done to provide holiday gifts to thousands of foster children. OICA does a comprehensive annual audit and has a CPA from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits review our books monthly. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

The mission of OK Foster Wishes will continue going forward under the administration of OICA, in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. We want you to have full confidence that your support is appreciated and is directly going to serve those Oklahoma foster families who need your assistance over the holidays and the coordination of services to make OK Foster Wishes a successful endeavor," Dorman said in an email to supporters.

According to the affidavit, McElhaney told police this was all a mistake, and that "she had unknowingly made all of the purchases with a business debit card."

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of McElhaney.

Dorman encourages people to continue donating to this and other charities because the work they do is important. More information about OK Foster Wishes can be found on the website.