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DHS reforms, foster care privatization under way

An interim study by the Senate committee for the Department of Human Resources was updated Wednesday about the status of five bills passed last session to significantly alter the operations of one of the state's largest agency.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: October 3, 2012 at 11:37 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012

Implementation of a plan to privatize parts of foster care and improve the welfare of children in state custody is well under way, Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, told the Senate committee for DHS on Wednesday.

Lawmakers passed five bills last session that changed the organization, leadership, operation and transparency of the Department of Human Services, one of the state's largest agencies.

Many of the changes were promised by the state in a settlement agreement to a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of ill-served foster care children in Oklahoma.

The settlement resulted in adoption of what has come to be known as The Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan.

‘Got to stay focused'

“I don't want to give the false impression to anyone that we believe the Pinnacle Plan is going to solve all the problems overnight or in a couple years,” Treat said. “We've got to stay focused on this and never let our eyes off it, because the welfare of our children is one of the core functions that we serve as state government.”

Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he requested the interim study to report back on how legislation has had an impact.

Some key updates:

• A request for proposals from private companies and nonprofits wishing to take over the state's recruitment, training and retention of foster parents should be ready within 30 days.

• Payments to a variety of foster care providers and parents increased on Aug. 1 and salaries for caseworkers were increased using in part a $25 million allocation by the Legislature.

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