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Child welfare statistics generate feelings of conflict

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: December 17, 2012

Of the states that reported whether victimized children were exposed to drug abuse, Oklahoma's rate (38 percent) was lower only than New Mexico (55.8 percent), Washington (41.6 percent) and Wyoming (33.7 percent).

Oklahoma's struggles with child welfare are well documented. It's fair to say last month's statewide vote to change oversight of the state Department of Human Services was due in no small part to voter frustration and heartbreak over the steady stream of outrageous child neglect and abuse cases where the agency already had or should have had involvement.

Clearly, Oklahoma isn't the only state deeply struggling with creating and nurturing safer environments for children, but that's of little consolation.

As Sheldon necessarily points out, behind each of the statistics is a child whose life will forever be altered — often by the very adults charged with their care.

We wish this was one of those occasions to offer an obvious and simple fix or to point a single finger of accountability. It isn't.

Drugs, poverty, crime and unemployment are factors. So, too, is the disintegration of the family as we once knew it. Child welfare officials can always do a better job protecting children they know are at risk. But isn't that true of us all?

We should celebrate progress. But this much is also certain: Neither parents nor other caregivers nor child welfare officials are always going to do the right thing. Stories of abuse and neglect should always produce outrage, heartbreak, urgent calls for action and even political posturing. If they don't, then we'll have an even bigger reason to worry.

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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