Child Welfare Reform Signed into Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation signed into law yesterday will improve the foster care system, according to the bill’s author.

House Bill 1078, by state Rep. Pat Ownbey, 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.

Ownbey said the specific changes to the independent living program 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.

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