The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has conducted the first of two hearings examining how rules and procedures impact children in state custody, as well as looking at the issue of homeless teens in Oklahoma.

State Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, requested the interim study. Griffin, who spent 15 years working with children in state custody, has first-hand knowledge of the subject. She said that for children, being forcibly removed from their home is the most intrusive thing government can do. Griffin said it’s important to understand how public policy impacts those children after they’re in state custody.

Jim Walker, executive director of the Youth Services of Tulsa, an organization that uses private funds to help provide shelter care as well as transitional housing to help homeless teens and those who have aged out of state custody to gain independence, told the commnittee, “Only a third of our kids that age out of foster care have a high school diploma or a GED. The kids we’re seeing through our outreach programs are ones that don’t have a clue, and don’t have a diploma. Many times they don’t have a birth certificate or a social security card. You can’t do much of anything without those. Every week ... we pay for and get them those documents so that they can move on or at least have a beginning. There is a huge need. It’s not only in Tulsa, it’s across the state.”

The second and final hearing for Griffin’s interim study will be held in October. Contact Griffin at (405) 521-5628.