DHS staff as foster parents: Criminal pasts and privacy

By Randy Ellis Modified: August 26, 2007 at 6:29 am •  Published: August 26, 2007
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Okfuskee County child-welfare worker Tracey Humphrey was summoned by a Department of Human Services supervisor in 2004 because of a complaint that she had punched a woman in the face at a Little League game.

Her husband, Shannan Humphrey, pleaded no contest in Denton, Texas, in 2001 to a charge of beating his former father-in-law.

Despite those incidents, DHS administrators promoted Tracey Humphrey to the position of child-welfare supervisor, authorized the couple to become foster parents and placed a 17-year-old foster child in their care, documents reveal.

"We had to go through the same steps that any other foster parents went through,” Tracey Humphrey told The Oklahoman. "It wasn't that I punched a lady. She punched my husband.”

Concerning her husband's plea, she said, "That was involving him and his wife when they were divorcing and he met with his father-in-law to fight.”

She referred further questions to DHS spokesman George Johnson. The spokesman said no information about the Humphreys' situation could be released to the public.

In an October e-mail to DHS's inspector general, former Okfuskee County supervisor Marilyn Rainwater questioned the placement of a child with Shannan and Tracey Humphrey.

Rainwater mentioned that Shannan Humphrey had a Texas conviction for assault and family violence and that Tracey Humphrey "got into a physical altercation with a woman.”

She wrote. "Even if DHS policy now permits under some circumstances for child-welfare staff to be paid foster parents for DHS custody children, it doesn't look good in an office this small for that to occur. There are only four workers in the county and it wouldn't be possible for Mrs. Humphrey to not know all the details of the court case. Plus, the court and law enforcement are all aware of her husband's criminal background as well as her own temperamental behavior.”

Contacted by The Oklahoman, Rainwater said Tracey Humphrey admitted after her altercation that she hit the woman for making disrespectful remarks about her husband.

"She told me out of her own mouth, ‘I'll have to admit I threw the first punch and bloodied her nose,'” Rainwater said.

Rainwater said a witness told her that Tracey Humphrey had a baby on her hip when the scuffle began.

Rainwater wasn't the only one who expressed concern about the altercation.

In a June 25, 2004, e-mail to Tracey Humphrey, DHS Okfuskee County Director Debra Winn wrote that she had received an anonymous call.

"The caller stated that she had been at a Little League ball game on Thursday evening and that she witnessed you getting into a fight with another mother,” Winn wrote. "She stated that you were using foul language in front of the children and that you punched the other woman in the face and it was hard enough that it caused her to bleed. The workman stated that she was concerned because you were a child-welfare worker and should be an advocate for children and should not behave in that manner. May I please get your side of the situation?”

Contacted by The Oklahoman , Winn refused to discuss the situation.

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