Rep. Pat Ownbey’s foster care proposals move to Oklahoma Senate

Initial processing and consideration for a set of foster reforms is now working its way through the state Senate.

House Bill 1078, a measure approved Monday (March 2) by the Oklahoma House of Representatives would improve the foster care system, according to the bill’s author.

House Bill 1078, by state Rep. Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore, was approved by a vote of 91-0. 

The legislation expands the independent living program that transitions children in the system into their adult lives, updates requirements for foster parents and group homes to ensure the child is engaged in typical childhood activities such as sports and other social activities and revises protocols used to deal with runaways and child trafficking victims.

Rep. Ownbey said specific changes to the independent living program would include lowering the age from 16 to 14 and providing for a team concept.

The team would include the state independent living worker, the child and an advisor that could be a coach, teacher or foster care parent.

The independent living program is very important to ensure that individuals who are leaving the child welfare system are established well in their adult lives, said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. When our kids grow up, we support them until they get their feet under them. This program endeavors to do the same thing for children in the child welfare system.

The safety provisions of the legislation include the expansion of reporting requirements in the case of missing children in the system, Ownbey said.

According to legislative staff, Ownbey’s proposal garnered first reading in the upper chamber this week, and has good prospects as it is considered in committee in the coming weeks.