DHS boosts oversight

By Nolan Clay Published: November 4, 2007
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The state Department of Human Services will create a small committee to decide which former criminals will be allowed in day cares, instead of relying on the judgment of a single official.

"You get more consistency,” Director Howard Hendrick said.

The director announced the change after an investigation by The Oklahoman found a number of problems with the practice.

The Oklahoman on Oct. 28 reported that DHS has let child abusers, robbers, wife beaters, prostitutes, a cop shooter, drug dealers and other former criminals work or live at day cares.

DHS bars certain former criminals from operating, working or living in days cares, but they may seek waivers from the ban.

"We're going to try to vet them more thoroughly with a committee, as opposed to just having one person,” Hendrick said of the applicants for waivers.

He said most of the decisions on applications are pretty straightforward, but those in the middle "probably need to have some more eyes” on them. He plans a committee of three employees, from inside and outside the DHS childcare division.

"People have different life experiences,” he said. "So, maybe they will see something that only one person might not see.”

DHS also will require some applicants to provide more information "if we're not sure about them,” he said.

Hendrick revealed the changes in written comments Thursday, and discussed them in a telephone interview Friday.

In his written comments, Hendrick was critical of the newspaper's report. He wrote, "Contrary to the impression created by the story, we continue to take child safety seriously.

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