Fewer children placed in Oklahoma shelters

BY JULIE BISBEE Published: October 8, 2009
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cal judges must also be involved in the process.

In the past, law enforcement in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties could take the children without consulting DHS or a judge and place them in custody at the shelters.

A $420,000 outside audit of DHS released this year found that Oklahoma took nearly twice as many children into custody compared to the national average. House Bill 1734, which became law this past session, called for reforms including reduced use of public shelters to house children.

While most children are placed in homes in the first 24 hours, teenagers or children with special needs are harder to place and tend to stay longer, said Sara Vincent, certification specialist with the Commission on Children and Youth.

Trauma on children removed from their home is lessened when they don’t spend an extended amount of time in state youth shelters, said Lisa Smith, director of the Commission on Children and Youth.

"If we can put them in a place with an approved family member or someone they know, we have reduced the trauma of being removed from their family and placed in a facility where they don’t know anyone,” Smith said.