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House panel backs changes in Oklahoma child welfare

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: March 3, 2009 at 6:05 am •  Published: March 3, 2009
A House committee Monday unanimously passed a bill containing recommendations from an audit of the state Department of Human Services.

House Bill 1734 would implement several of the audit’s recommendations:

• Law enforcement should consult with DHS before removing a child.

• Establishing a program to allow information about a child’s physical and behavioral health and educational needs to be available electronically.

• Phasing out the use of public shelters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

• Setting up a centralized statewide hot line to take reports of abuse and neglect of children. This would replace three separate hot lines.

• Reorganizing department offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

The bill’s author, Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, said HB 1734 also would place more emphasis on in-home services for families.

Reduced use of state-run shelters in Oklahoma City and Tulsa should help save money, he said.

"This bill is still a work in progress,” said Peters, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services. "We know this audit will serve as a blueprint of changes we need in the department moving forward to ensure our children’s ongoing safety, both inside and outside their home.”

Members of the Human Services Committee passed the bill, 8-0.


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