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For The Children Weekly Column

Please Continue Supporting Foster Youth over the Holidays

OKLAHOMA CITY – November normally is the time the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) prepares to kick off OK Foster Wishes. Regrettably, that will not be the case this year. 

OK Foster Wishes was not selected as a program to help distribute foster youth wish lists this year. For those seeking to support this mission, OICA recommends Fostering Joy, one of the tremendous programs with which we shared this task in previous years. Fostering Joy gets our support because 100% of donations go to fulfilling wish lists – not administrative costs.

Fostering Joy has committed to fulfilling more than 2,000 lists across 14 Oklahoma counties. Go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeKrQjcXFz3QwHgfoDTmuVtIiLyirnNibW9_qP-GLH2AIwQhw/viewform to sponsor a child, provide a monetary donation to purchase gifts for lists not taken, or to even purchase an item on the gift registry.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) also has an interactive map to see localized wish list opportunities. Visit https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/services/foster/holidayhope21.html to see how you can help. Remember, that when you donate financially to a program, oftentimes a portion of the money supports the program, including paying for staff and resources to ensure endeavors are successful. If you are a foster parent and need holiday support for a child in your home, go to https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/services/foster/wishlistmap.html to sign up.

For those unfamiliar with OK Foster Wishes, it started more than a decade ago through LifeChurch to provide toys and clothes to children in foster care. OK Foster Wishes grew to be a wonderful standalone nonprofit partnering with the DHS. DHS workers have the children under their watch fill out wish lists, and then lists were distributed to programs which helped fulfill the requests with a suggested $75 price for each donation.

Several years ago, OK Foster Wishes fell on tough times. Their team was unable to conduct the support in that year. DHS director Ed Lake approached OICA to assist the program and ensure it continued. I want to thank Ed for coming to us for that partnership and we are honored to have helped continue OK Foster Wishes.

OICA is blessed to have helped ensure foster youth, enduring the most traumatic event of their lives, would at least have the joy of opening a toy or item their hearts desired. OICA helped distribute almost 3,500 lists each year and coordinated the pick-up of the toys from partners with established drop-off sites.

Our staff secured warehouse space for joint use by OICA and DHS to sort the items and coordinate pickup and delivery of the items by county DHS offices. Thanks to Feed the Children, Hobby Lobby, and Petra Industries for providing that space at no charge for the three years we coordinated OK Foster Wishes.

We have had fantastic support from DHS, such as Tisch Gipson, Mandi Mays, Karen Jacobs, and many others from the agency who we appreciate. Mike O’Dell was our constant volunteer of the year by helping pick up toys at various locations and delivering them to the warehouse. Thanks to all who spent time ensuring everything operated well. The Oklahoma Blood Institute collaborated through their ShareThanks program to send anonymous notes of appreciation to the gift donors from the families receiving the benefit.

Donors tell us they get more out of this than the value of the toys they bought. We at OICA ask that you please continue support for this noble mission led by several local, regional, and statewide nonprofits this holiday season. We will keep you posted about the future of OK Foster Wishes.

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