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Fewer children placed in Oklahoma shelters

BY JULIE BISBEE Published: October 8, 2009
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The number of children who are spending more than 24 hours in Department of Human Services shelterscontinues to decrease as caseworkers and law enforcement work together when removing children from their homes.

In September, the combined shelter population in Tulsa and Oklahoma City was lower than any previous month this year.

On Wednesday, there were 25 children at the shelter in Oklahoma City and 26 children at the shelter in Tulsa.

Before the reforms, the number of children in Oklahoma City’s shelter was often between 65 and 70 and, in Tulsa, 75 and 80, DHS officials have said.

DHS officials credit the decline to an increased effort to find more permanent homes for children within the first 24 hours, said George Johnson, DHS spokesman.

"That effort begins as soon as we are made aware of their name,” Johnson said. "We’re practicing a more holistic approach. We like to say, ‘Nothing about us, without us.’ If something is being done with a family, we want to be a part of it.”

Johnson said caseworkers are often meeting with family members when a child is taken from its parents. The goal is to get a permanent housing solution instead of allowing a child to stay in a shelter for an extended period of time.

A new state law does away with the "standing orders” provision in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties. The law helps to decrease the number of children showing up at shelters.

Taking effect July 1, it requires DHS caseworkers to be consulted when law enforcement encounters a scene in which a child might be in need.