DHS commissioners who oversee the state's largest agency should be given detailed reports by an oversight board that reviews the deaths of children, three commissioners said Thursday.
Detailed, confidential reports by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth are given to Department of Human Services agency officials, but the nine commissioners receive general reports, DHS Commissioner Steven Dow said.
Dow, a member of a special review committee that was formed last month to look into recent deaths of children who died while in DHS custody, said committee members met Thursday with Lisa Smith, director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.
The confidential reports contain specific recommendations about either policies that could be improved or policies that were not adequately followed or case workers that were not being trained adequately on existing policies, Dow said.
It would be helpful for the nine DHS commissioners to get those reports and review the findings, he said.
“As we formulate in the future some recommendations for things that are likely to be things that the committee recommends changing, that's probably on the list of things we're going to be giving active consideration to,” Dow said.
Recently appointed Commissioner Wes Lane, who serves as chairman of the committee, said DHS commissioners need to review those reports.
“Are there things from those OCCY reports that we need to tweak policy?” he asked. “Heretofore, we've not seen those. But I expect we will in the future.”
Lane's committee met for the first time Thursday. The committee, also made up of commissioners Anne Roberts and Anita Wilkinson, plans to meet again Monday, Oct. 31.
Lane said citizens want to see an actively engaged commission looking at child deaths under DHS care and helping the agency develop policies to help the agency work to prevent deaths.
Lane said committee members also discussed what people they would like to see join them on the committee to look into various issues. However, DHS attorneys cautioned that federal privacy laws restrict who can see information on children in the agency's custody, he said.
The committee first is taking up child deaths that occurred in DHS care, and then will branch out to look at services the agency provides to the elderly and others.
“It's very difficult to predict murder,” said Lane, a former Oklahoma County district attorney. “But to the degree that we are physically, humanly able to do that and set up a system to do so, we have a responsibility to do that.”