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Oklahoma DHS director says comparing state child abuse statistics misleading

Oklahoma is doing a better job of preventing child abuse and neglect than national statistics reflect, says DHS Director Howard Hendrick.
BY RANDY ELLIS Published: October 17, 2010

DHS also has made improvements in retaining child welfare workers, Hendrick said. A December 2009 report indicated 55 percent of caseworkers had more than two years' experience, but Hendrick said he has seen a more recent report indicating about 69 percent have at least that much experience.

Hendrick said DHS has made major progress in speeding up adoptions.

"We've consistently been in the top five states for adopting children per capita for the past decade," he said.

As of June 30, the state had 7,970 children in foster care, including about 900 children in trial reunifications with their families, he said. The number in foster care is more than a third less than the 12,222 children in out-of-home care just three years ago, he said. The state has the fewest number of children in foster care in at least a decade, which has made caseloads more manageable, he said.

Hendrick said DHS is involved in a lot more than child welfare.

"We're handling record numbers of people in food stamps. We're a national leader in child care licensing. We're a national leader in paternity establishment for child support. We're the second best growing state in the nation for child support collections. We've won our regional award four years in a row for managing the food stamp program better than any other state in our region," he said. "There's a lot more to DHS than just child welfare."

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