A Home For Every Heart

by Mary Jo Estes, Emergency Host Home coordinator at Southwestern Youth Services in Altus

June 11, 2014

A home for every heart - that’s exactly what our children need. Two of our staff members brainstormed that motto for our Emergency Shelter Host Homes program. I think it’s perfect.

We are at a lo0ss for emergency shelter also known as Host Homes in our community. Altus used to have a group shelter program; however, it was shut down. Which, as it turns out, is just as well. Our children thrive in a family environment and children in need of placement are so much better off in a loving, kind, and understanding home.

That’s what the Oklahoma Department of Human Services was aiming at when they proposed and passed a reform plan to help strengthen and better meet the needs of our youth in the foster care system, The Pinnacle Plan, in 2013. Are you aware of the Pinnacle Plan? I highly recommend doing a little bit of research into it to see what it’s about. One of its many goals was to get our out of home children, currently house in group shelters around the state, to be moved into family environments and phase out our group shelters. Last June 2013, children under 6 years old were no longer supposed to be housed in group shelters. As of this month, June 2014, children 12 years and younger are supposed to be phased out of the group shelters. An extreme lack of host homes and traditional foster homes has created a burden on the system.

Do you see how dire our situation is with children in need of placement in our community? Where will they go when they are no longer suppose to be in group shelters, but in host homes… when there aren’t enough to go around? Please consider calling Southwestern Youth Services at 580-471-0856 to request an application to become an emergency host home provider for our children in need of temporary shelter.

Our Host Homes program is designed to provide for a child’s immediate shelter and care needs. Our Host Homes are available for one to 30 days, while other means of care are being coordinated. SWYS provides all of the training a Host Home provider needs, including 24 your support and guidance by our dedicated staff. We would love to have an abundance of homes in our area, so we can provide a Home for Every Heart. Thank you.