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Man accused of child sex abuse helped train Oklahoma child welfare supervisors

A former University of Oklahoma social work professor who is awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing children helped train Oklahoma Department of Human Services child welfare supervisors, records reveal.
by Andrew Knittle and Randy Ellis Published: July 23, 2012

The former officer, whom The Oklahoman is not identifying to protect the identity of his daughter, said he and his wife and children became friends with Pellebon through church, during a “vulnerable time in our lives.”

Court documents associated with Pellebon's current criminal charges show the former professor would lie in bed with the former police officer's daughter, who was 11 at the time, with the door closed when the officer wasn't home.

The former officer said his children never admitted to DHS investigators that anything inappropriate had happened between them and Pellebon, but he decided to end the friendship because of his overpowering suspicions.

“I saw the way he was with the other girls at church ... and that was enough for me,” he said.

The former officer told investigators the suspect's ex-wife, Champa Pellebon, called his family shortly after the 2001 investigation and told them she had found child pornography on her then-husband's computer.

As for the DHS investigation, which never yielded charges, the former officer said he was told by a Norman police detective working on Pellebon's current case that getting information from DHS wasn't easy.

“It was like pulling teeth,” he said. “DHS did not want to give it over, it seemed like.”

DHS's contract with OU called for the university to provide clinical specialists to lead quarterly, four-hour sessions with child welfare officials.

Pellebon and the other clinical specialists provided training on child welfare issues and facilitated discussions on how to manage difficult child welfare cases.

Records obtained by The Oklahoman show Pellebon conducted training classes in Lawton in recent years, training 15 to 17 DHS child welfare supervisors at a time. The supervisors came from Comanche, Jackson, Stephens, Caddo, Washita, Kiowa and Jefferson counties.

Pellebon's latest contract shows he was to be paid $900 for each of the four case management group sessions he was scheduled to lead that year. The contract called for him also to receive up to $2,400 for “county specific mentoring.” Those payments were to be made at the rate of $100 an hour for on-site participation and staff briefings, and $50 an hour for travel time and off-site preparation and telephone mentoring.

The effectiveness of the training sessions presented by Pellebon and the other clinical specialists was measured by surveys filled out by the child welfare supervisors who attended.

Pellebon generally received fairly high ratings, although not as high as the combined ratings for Pellebon and his colleagues.

For example, in July 2011, about 60 percent of the child welfare supervisors rated the overall effectiveness of their clinical specialists as excellent, but only 40 percent of Pellebon's trainees gave him the highest rating. However, the remaining 60 percent of Pellebon's trainees gave him a “very good” overall rating.

The surveys solicited written comments about the value of the sessions taught by the clinical specialists, but the report filed with DHS did not present them in a way where a person could tell which specialist's class the supervisor had attended.

The remarks ranged from, “I think they are very beneficial,” to “my only recommendation is to make the sessions voluntary and not mandatory. I waste my time going to them.” has disabled the comments for this article.
by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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