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 mrolland@opubco.com Modified: October 3, 2012 at 11:37 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
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• By Oct. 16, the entire department of child welfare will be realigned into five regions and 27 districts, a change called vertical realignment.

• By the end of this week, DHS must submit an accountability plan, including measurable data such as incidences of child abuse, retention of employees, employee workload or stability of child placement in homes.

Treat warned in the meeting that in the first reports he expects Oklahoma numbers to get worse, in large part because for the first time there will be a standard of measurement that will not let cases go unreported.

Deborah Smith, director of DHS Child Welfare Services, said that the agency is getting close to meeting goals of reducing the numbers of young children in shelters, a key requirement in the Pinnacle Plan.

She said that as of Wednesday there were 35 children in the Oklahoma City shelter and only one was under the age of 2. There were 65 children in the Tulsa shelter, but she said she didn't have numbers on how many were younger than 2 years old.

Treat said one of the bills passed by lawmakers last session depends on voter approval in the November general elections. Voters will decide on State Question 765, which would do away with the current commission overseeing the department. The measure replaces that commission with four advisory boards overseeing different missions of DHS.