OKLAHOMA CITY - It's been a long-term goal to close both Tulsa and Oklahoma City's emergency juvenile shelters for good.
"What is best for children is that they be with families, and that's why they don't need to put children into a building, especially a large building with a lot of children together," said Sheree Powell, spokesperson for OK DHS.
But, there is one heart-breaking hurdle. Three autistic foster children, who struggle to speak, have not been able to find foster homes.
"We have three little boys left at the shelter, and we're keeping the shelter open for them, until we can find a home," Powell said. “I think foster families are afraid they may not be able to handle it."
Heather Hansen and her husband, Wayne, have fostered 17 children over a five-year time span. They recently adopted little Layla, who suffers from a brain disorder.
"God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the called, and we felt called," Heather said.
Heather said DHS pays for all medical expenses for Layla and will continue to do so until she becomes an adult. She also said specialists showed her how to take care of Layla.
"[They said,] 'We're going to come to your home, help you learn about this child, their needs, who their doctor is, who their therapists are, what school they go to," Hansen said.
The Hansen family is in the process of adopting Layla's little sister, who also has special needs. They and DHS hope others will see hope and unexpected rewards in fostering a child with disabilities.
DHS said they plan to re-purpose the shelter to help children in crisis, but no set plans have been made.
For more information on fostering a child, call Mason Rodgers at 405-767-2543.