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Oklahoma lawmakers, youth services providers discuss foster care reform

At a Senate interim study lawmakers and youth services providers discussed both obstacles facing children transitioning out of foster care and into adulthood and possible changes to the foster care system.
By Graham Lee Brewer Modified: October 9, 2013 at 7:52 pm •  Published: October 10, 2013

The state may need help from the private sector in providing services for foster care youth transitioning into adulthood, Sen. A.J. Griffin said Wednesday.

Griffin, R-Guthrie, said the state could possibly benefit by not only relying more on private program services to augment their own, but also by duplicating the methods of those private organizations that are producing positive results.

Griffin, along with other members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, met with mental health and youth services experts at the Capitol for an interim study focusing on the issue of young people who lose access to a range of state services when they turn 18.

Among the specific topics discussed was the issue of mental health problems among children in foster care and how properly to address them.

Marqus Butler, the Oklahoma Healthy Transition Initiative project director for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said the number of children dealing with mental health concerns is becoming more and more evident.

“We're starting to notice some, what I call special populations, of young people in transition,” said Butler. “These are quickly becoming what I consider to be our most vulnerable young people. They include a group of former foster care youth, and these are the former foster care youth with severe mental illness.”

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