OKLAHOMA CITY – When you look around Sisu Youth Services you’ll find little teen touches all over.
“15-to-22-year-olds that are street homeless,” Heather Johnson, Board President of Sisu Youth Services said.
For many, they’ve been shunned from their family for their sexual orientation, and for some, it’s because they’ve aged out of foster care.
“He had been in foster care and had terrible experiences in foster care, and on his 18th birthday the state of Oklahoma says ‘you`re an adult and we are no longer responsible for you.'”
6 out of the 16 youths currently at Sisu aged out of DHS custody.
“If we have youth that were in foster care and aged out of foster care and they find their way to Sisu, we have contacts with Sisu. They reach out to us and then we immediately start working with the youth to try to figure out how we can get them housed,” Jennifer Boyer, programs supervisor at OKDHS said.
DHS offers the Oklahoma Successful Adulthood Program for teens who will soon age out of the system. It helps with housing, employment, and college to name a few. The “Yes I Can!” program provides a helpline for youth needing support or resources. That number is 1-800-397-2945.
“Ninety days before they turn 18 we really try to finalize what does that plan look like for you?” Boyer said.
Housing vouchers are also available for children who meet the requirements.
And there’s also another option.
“We have the option for them to sign back into voluntary foster care so if they`re in a placement that`s willing to keep them they can stay in foster care until they graduate,” Boyer said.
But Sisu says so many youths want to get out of foster care and be on their own.
As was the case for a recent 18-year-old who they say was dropped off at the shelter on his 18th birthday.
“He had been bounced from so many foster homes and so many group homes he just wanted to walk away,” Johnson said.
DHS says the child’s welfare worker provides information about their resources. They also go to a conference each year, but what they decide is up to them.
Meanwhile, Sisu says they are always looking for volunteers and donations. Cleaning supplies and men’s underwear is their biggest need.