Guest column: Anticipating a busy fall at the statehouse
School’s back in, and the hustle and bustle of homework, sports and other family activities has begun. It can be stressful, but it goes so fast. I hope you take the time to enjoy and appreciate this precious time in your life. Tomorrow you’ll be like me, and those activities will be for your grandkids and great-grands.
My wife, Karen, and I had such a special summer traveling, reconnecting with old friends and spending quality time with our loved ones. With all the negativity and hurt in the world today, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important, and that is your relationships with loved ones. Draw them close during these difficult times. Focus on the things you can control and pray about the rest. That’s all we can do.
This fall is going to be extremely busy at the Capitol. More than 70 Senate interim studies were approved by the Pro Tem. The first one has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 9 and will look at how the state could possibly streamline the Department of Human Services (DHS) court process to minimize trauma to children and save the state money.
Currently, DHS’ focus is reunification of families, but unfortunately this process can take years, and in many cases, the children are bounced from one foster family to another. There have also been many cases where foster families have had a child so long that they’re ready to adopt them, only to have the child ripped away from them at the last minute.
We need to find a balance because right now it seems the parents are the ones getting all the chances at a better life, not the kids. These adults are provided numerous opportunities to beat their addiction, learn proper anger management and parenting skills, stay employed and secure housing. No one can help an addict except themselves, and if they really want to change their lives, they can do so in less than a year.
We can’t continue to submit these children to years in the foster care system. It’s imperative that children have security, a routine, and a reliable family who loves them unconditionally as soon as possible for their mental and emotional well-being. Otherwise, the state risks dealing with the possible mental and emotional aftermath in adulthood caused by years of traumatic back and forth in the foster care system and continual disappointments. I’m anxious to hear what is learned in this important interim study.
If you’ve had personal experience as a foster parent who adopted or watched your foster kids torn back and forth, please contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and share your story. It’s important that families give their foster kids a voice. We must do better for these children. There’s a saying among adoptive families—blood doesn’t make family, love does. Oklahoma needs to focus more on those foster families who love these kids unconditionally and are ready to step up, instead of spending so many years and so much energy and taxpayer dollars trying to make biological parents into something they may never be.
Only one study was assigned to the Veterans Committee, and we will be hearing it. It will evaluate the effectiveness of Oklahoma's current tuition assistance program for National Guard service members. As the chair of this committee, I’d love to hear your input on this issue.
The entire list of approved interim studies can be found on the Senate homepage at www.oksenate.gov. Meeting schedules will be online as the committee chairs approve them. These are public meetings, and if you see one dealing with an issue you have personal experience or expertise with, feel free to reach out to the committee chair and ask if you may share or present at the meeting. These studies provide an opportunity for committee members to hear from people on all sides of a particular issue, including private citizens, businesses, state agencies, experts in the field, nonprofits, and others.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call, or email me at (405) 521-5607 or Frank.Simpson@oksenate.gov.