OKLAHOMA CITY --The average daily number of Oklahoma children in out-of-home foster care has dropped below 7,000 for the first time in more than three years.
September's number was reported at 6,902, Department of Human Services figures released Tuesday show. It marked the sixth-straight monthly decline. The last time the figure was below 7,000 was July 2005, when the foster care population report was at 6,974. The number peaked at 7,883 in May 2007. Department officials cited several reasons for the decline, including an increase in the state's adoption rate, reduction in the length of stay for children in state foster care and emphasis on prevention programs that assist families. About 11,000 Oklahoma children have been adopted in the past 10 years, including about 1,500 in fiscal 2008, DHS Communications Director George Johnson said. The length of stay in custody also has dropped significantly, from 37 months in 1999 to 21.