OKDHS to implement foster children’s bill of rights

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Brondalyn Coleman had been in foster care since she was 6-years-old. After 12 years in DHS custody, Coleman aged out of the foster care system.

Now, she spends her days advocating for children at Pivot, a nonprofit organization.

"Depending on who your worker is and the training and information they receive, it also affects how much information you receive as a youth,” Coleman said.

Now, a so-called foster children's 'Bill of Rights' is hoping to change that scenario.

When a child goes into DHS custody, they will receive a card and be educated on their rights. It's a big change at a time when many children feel helpless.

"You have a right to have meaningful conversations with your attorney. You have a right to speak with your caseworker in private any time that you need to. You have a right to visit your family as the court has ordered,” Foster Care Ombudsman Lisa Buck said.

Each year, Bucks says these rights will be reinforced. She says every children should know they always have a neutral person to turn to for help.

"Their lives feel a little bit out of control for them right now, and this gives them something that's tangible so that they know, 'I do have rights and I do have some control over what's going on in my life right now,'” Buck said.

Teachers, DHS workers and other invested people can file a grievance on their behalf.

"We're going to call the child and talk to them because we want to make sure this is truly what the child wants and the child desires," Buck said.

The new program will be implemented beginning Nov. 1.

Currently, DHS has two employees for the new program, and another part-time member is expected to join the team soon.

If you need to contact a youth advocate call 1-800-522-8014 or visit this website.

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