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Oklahoma DHS disciplines worker after HIV warning

An Oklahoma DHS child welfare specialist was suspended for three days without pay after she warned foster parents a child under their care might be HIV-positive.
by Nolan Clay Published: March 30, 2013
/articleid/3778509/1/pictures/1998243">Photo - Fran Derrick The child welfare worker was disciplined by the state Department of Human Services.
Fran Derrick The child welfare worker was disciplined by the state Department of Human Services.

DHS stated in Derrick's disciplinary notice that she told a supervisor in December that she had shared the mother's HIV status with the foster parents “without written authorization or consent.”

Derrick could not have gotten the mother's consent to reveal the test result because the mother was in a coma, The Oklahoman learned.

“I have not had any formal or informal training specifically regarding … AIDS and … HIV,” Derrick also told the DHS deputy director in February. “If Child Welfare Specialists are to act according to statutes, we must be made aware of statutes that affect our work. … It is impossible to keep abreast of all the statutes that might have a relationship to our work if we are not educated regarding them.”

DHS officials maintain all child welfare specialists are trained on the subject of disclosure of client information and records without a court order.

DHS officials would not reveal the age of the foster child. They also would not reveal if the child ever tested HIV-positive.

The Oklahoman learned of Derrick's suspension because the newspaper periodically makes an Open Records Act request for all DHS disciplinary records.

Derrick has worked at DHS since November 2010 and is a child welfare specialist II. She said she already has served her suspension. She plans to retire this year.

“Most of the people I started with are no longer with the agency. It's just too difficult,” Derrick said.

She also said, “Any day you could find somebody who kind of doesn't do exactly what policy states. There's just so much policy and there's so much gray area.”

by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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