HOWARD Hendrick got a standing ovation Tuesday upon announcing his retirement as director of the Department of Human Services. He deserves that applause — and much more — for all that he has done in leading an agency that’s the most difficult to run in the state.
As recently as late last week, Hendrick indicated he wasn’t sure how much longer he would stay at the DHS helm. He hinted that he was months away from deciding. It’s now evident that he was already moving toward the decision that will put him out of the office by the end of February — it takes time to compose 5,200 words, which was the length of Hendrick’s letter of resignation.
We honor Hendrick for his dedicated service. A list of the agency’s accomplishments under his leadership would fill volumes, and he mentioned some of them in his letter. Among them: A tripling in child support collections; creation of the Swift Adoptions program; the great work of the agency’s food stamp program, which has seen record demand in recent years; the maturation of DHS’s Reaching for the Stars child care system; and a reduction in the number of child welfare victims in the past decade.
Addressing DHS employees, Hendrick wrote that he knows “the reason many of you do this work is not the words you get from me or the money you are paid, but the smiles and encouragement you receive from the families who benefit from the work. OKDHS is an incredible place to work because our employees are committed to our mission, to each other and to the families we serve.”
Nevertheless, we believe DHS needed invigorated leadership, particularly as it moves forward following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit involving the child welfare division.