With Thanksgiving behind us, ‘tis the season for holiday decorations, non-stop Christmas music on the radio, and a lot of hard work for the public employees, OICA staff and volunteers working to get holiday presents for the roughly 8,000 Oklahoma children in foster care.
 
That effort begins with caseworkers at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), who collect holiday wish lists from each foster child. Next, those wish lists are matched with partner organizations like OK Foster Wishes, the gift drive run by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) that works to fulfill these wish-lists with the help of generous donors.  
 
We are proud to say that OK Foster Wishes is the largest gift-drive for foster children in the state, fulfilling more than half of the Oklahoma foster children’s wish lists. OICA and DHS operate the OK Foster Wishes warehouse (a space being generously lent to us, free of charge, by Hobby Lobby) where gifts are stored, sorted and eventually sent out to children. In Oklahoma County, we work directly to schedule foster family pickups to lighten the workload for DHS caseworkers. In cases where donors are not found, or wish-lists are unavailable, OICA collects unwrapped toys and our staff personally makes shopping runs (funded by monetary donations) to make sure as many gifts as possible are sent out.    
 
If this sounds like a massive operation, it is! It can only succeed with the help of generous and caring Oklahomans. Please be one of them by going to okfosterwishes.org to request one of our remaining 500 wish-lists or to make a monetary donation. You can also call (405) 236-5437 should you need assistance. Contributions ensure this program can continue and not leave a single child out of receiving gifts!
 
Ensuring that every foster child receives a holiday gift is a team effort, and we are not the only organization working to support this great cause through distributing lists or collecting donations. In Cleveland County, the youth are served by the Secret Santa program, administered by the Citizens Advisory Board.  You can request a list from their website at http://cabok.org/. Tulsa County is served by the program Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children, and wish lists for those foster children can be requested at http://www.tapchelps.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-CFK-Donor-Checklist.pdf by filling out their checklist.  There are other local programs assisting this effort, but In total, OICA supports 54 of the 77 counties. Contact our office if you would specifically like to know which group supports your county.
 
We are also thankful for other organizations, such as Citizens Caring for Children. They requested 1,200 lists directly from the Department of Human Services to aid in the effort.  You can donate to them or request a list from them by emailing Julie at jkeller@cccokc.org with the subject line Joy 4 Kids Wishlist. Oklahoma Lawyers for Children also began a project this year to assist foster youth over the holidays.  If you would like to receive a wish list for this group, contact Tsinena at tthompson@olfc.org or DeMarco at ddavis@olfc.org, or you can also call the organization at (405) 232-4453.
 
As you can see, there many groups working towards one goal: ensuring Oklahoma foster children have a special holiday season.  Please join with us to support this effort to assist our foster youth across the state!