A special DHS committee reviewing child deaths initially will focus on 18 cases.
The first 18 cases all involve children who died from child abuse or neglect since Jan. 1, 2010. All were either in DHS custody or DHS officials had received complaints within the previous year that the children were being abused or neglected, said Wes Lane, chairman of the Special Review Committee.
“The question that's on the public's mind is, ‘Are we at DHS doing everything that we can possibly do to protect these children?'” Lane said. “We want the public to be satisfied that we are at least doing everything humanly possible.”
Thirteen more cases may be added to the initial list, depending on the results of pending autopsies, Lane said.
Additional cases will be added later, he said.
Lane made his comments Tuesday after emerging from an organizational meeting of his committee, which was closed to the public because of the confidential nature of some of the information that was discussed.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services' governing commission recently formed the Special Review Committee amid public outcry over a series of high-profile deaths involving children in DHS custody and children DHS workers failed to remove from homes despite repeated complaints of physical abuse.
The state child welfare agency is being sued in Tulsa federal court by a New York-based child advocacy group called Children's Rights. The group alleges Oklahoma's system of caring for abused and neglected children is so bad that children are being injured and otherwise harmed while in shelters and foster homes.