What ideas do you have to better the lives of Oklahoma’s children?
I think we first start with their education. Now that we have additional funding, we can pay teachers appropriately, and also ensure a larger percentage of those funds actually make it to the classroom for continued certainty to teachers for their pay and that they will not have to pay out of pocket to provide classroom supplies to ensure the children have the resources they need to learn – the recent 65% plan makes sense. Our children need goals – let them get inspired through strong academic programs to pursue skilled jobs through top-tier STEM education programs. Let’s give them the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of content and help them identify their strengths earlier in the education process so that they can begin their path toward a successful career. We simply cannot attract better paying jobs in Oklahoma without equipping our children.
As an adoptive parent, I would also expand focus and tools for youth services, Bridge parent (foster) programs. We have a lot to do in that area to help at-risk youth as well, including working closely with families who are willing to foster/adopt older children. There is also an immense need to help those who have ‘aged out’ of the foster care system who are trying to make it on their own without having been placed in a family support structure before 18. How we help our current generation in their formative years is the most important indicator for the future success of our state.
What have you done to support children prior to this election?
My wife Kim and I, having the desire to start a family but unable to have our own children, were blessed to adopt through OKDHS an older sibling group, a brother and sister. This was a very exciting time for us – and them, too! They both finally had their own rooms, their own beds, their own “things;” and we finally had our family.
We did what any other parents would do – we invested in their education, helped them with their homework, supported them in whatever sports they wanted to play, got them involved with our church, and treated them like our own, because they were. It was a very gratifying experience, and we are grateful to be a part of these kids’ lives.
What will you do to support families in your new role, if elected?
Kim and I didn’t adopt these two children out of pity – we did it out of love for those kids and an understanding the real needs that are occurring in today’s society. As Christians who are pro-life, that means we answered a call to responsibility in how we can help the most vulnerable. What we discovered in the process, though, was that there was very little support that existed in the community to help post-adoption families like ours. These children had a rough past and needed help – sometimes help that Kim and I couldn’t offer. We had to look outside the home, the church, friends, family. Resources were too limited and blended families of this type need direction and support. This is an area that greatly needs, and can be, improved upon.
I am eager to sit down with child advocacy subject-matter-experts to discuss all possible solutions so that families have the resources available when the need arises. Strong families are key to our state’s success.