Easy to understand officials' frustration with DHS over girl's death

IT can take a while to get things done at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, as we are witnessing with the handling of the death of Serenity Deal.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: July 29, 2011
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IT can take a while to get things done at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, as we are witnessing with the handling of the death of Serenity Deal.

It has been nearly two months since Serenity's body was found in her father's apartment. Authorities said the 5-year-old suffered significant head trauma, with bruises all over her body. Her death came not long after DHS had placed Serenity with her father, Sean Devon Brooks. Brooks is now charged with first-degree murder.

It has been six weeks since the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth issued its report on Serenity's case. The commission, which monitors DHS, found that case workers had pushed for the girl to live with her father despite two reports of her returning from visits with Brooks with bruises and black eyes. The report also strongly implied that DHS workers from Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties disagreed on how to handle the case.

It was also six weeks ago that a DHS spokeswoman said the agency planned the following week to release a summary of its internal review. That summary has yet to see the light of day.

It has been six weeks since the four child welfare workers who handled Serenity's case were placed on leave. It has been a month since one of them, Wesley Priest, resigned. It's been a little more than two weeks since another one, Donald Wheeler, committed suicide in Chandler. Sources told The Oklahoman that Wheeler, a 30-year veteran of the agency, had fought hard to keep Serenity from being allowed to live with her father.


by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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