Child under 2 was wrongly put in state shelter, Oklahoma Department of Human Services official says

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services had agreed to place nearly all babies and 1-year-olds in its care in family-like settings after Dec. 31. Changes in procedures have been made to prevent a similar error from occurring, a DHS official said.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: January 23, 2013 at 9:48 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013
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A child under age 2 may be placed in a shelter if the child has at least three siblings and all are placed in the same shelter if it's in the best interest to keep them all together, Smith said. Other exceptions to the rule include medically fragile children requiring 24-hour supervision and teen mothers with infants,

The plan required DHS to not place children under the age of 2 in shelters overnight by Dec. 31. Smith said the agency had met its goal and had followed that guideline until the Jan. 11-14 incident.

“We should have worked harder,” Smith said.

State officials agreed to the plan as part of a settlement to a class-action lawsuit over the treatment of children in state custody.

The next major milestone for DHS in reducing shelter usage is June 30, when the agency is committed to ensuring that no child under age 6 spends a night in a shelter. About 30 children under age 6 are in shelters now, Smith said.

By June 30, 2014, no child under age 13 is to spend a night in a shelter. About 150 children between 6 and 12 years are old are in shelters now, she said.

Under the Pinnacle Plan, the agency also has made a commitment to recruit at least 2,000 new foster families by June 30, or about 500 more than were recruited the previous fiscal year.

The agency had recruited 960 new foster families by Jan. 7. While ahead of last year's pace, it is behind what is needed to achieve the plan's goal.