DHS received serious complaints of abuse and neglect involving foster children in its care but failed to disclose the complaints to judges handling their child welfare cases, according to documents filed in an ongoing Tulsa federal lawsuit against the agency. In one 2007 case, a boy told an Oklahoma Department of Human Services worker that his foster mother whipped him with a pink leather belt. The worker made a confirmed finding of abuse after observing a 6-inch circular bruise on the child’s right upper thigh, bruises and scratches on his right forearm and small bruises on his left thigh. "Nevertheless, DHS made no mention of this abuse” in its next report to the judge assigned to the boy’s child welfare case, according to attorneys associated with Children’s Rights, a New York-based child advocacy group that is suing DHS over care it provides to foster children.Comments
Medical care neededIn another 2007 case, a neglect complaint was filed with DHS against a Skiatook foster mother who failed to seek medical attention for a 9-month-old girl who had a double ear infection that was so bad, pus was coming out of her sinus cavities. The baby also had "horrible eczema all over her body,” suffered from a respiratory syncytial virus infection and could not keep milk down because of severe congestion, the complaint states. The complaint was called in by a woman providing respite foster care for the baby. Respite foster care is temporary care provided to give foster parents a break. The caller said the foster mother had other DHS foster children in her home and she was concerned about the care they might be receiving. DHS failed to tell a judge about the neglect complaint against the Skiatook foster mother during a review hearing concerning care for the 9-month-old girl held just five days after the complaint was received, attorneys said. The baby’s primary caseworker stated in a sworn deposition that she was not notified of the complaint because the baby’s foster home was located outside the county where the caseworker was assigned and the child had already been moved. The attorneys suing DHS cited the two cases as "graphic proof” that the safety and welfare of Oklahoma’s foster children are not being adequately protected by DHS and the state juvenile court system. They want a Tulsa federal judge to declare their case to be a class action so they can represent all children in DHS custody. There are about 7,230 Oklahoma children in foster care. DHS attorneys want the judge to dismiss the case. DHS spokesman George Johnson referred questions to attorney Don Bingham, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Bingham is a Tulsa private attorney who is helping defend DHS in the case. The next hearing is scheduled Jan. 7 in Tulsa federal court.
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