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Oklahoma DHS governing board refuses special meeting on Serenity Deal death

Serenity Deal, 5, died in Oklahoma City after being placed with father by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
By Nolan Clay, Randy Ellis and Robby Trammell Modified: September 11, 2011 at 12:47 am •  Published: September 11, 2011

The governing board of the state's child-welfare agency has refused repeated requests to hold special meetings on the high-profile deaths of children in its care.

Steven Dow, of Tulsa, called for the special meetings. He is one of nine commissioners who oversee the state Department of Human Services.

He told The Oklahoman, “My calls for greater accountability and interest by the commission in even asking questions are met with a deafening silence. … I basically have gotten no response from most of the commissioners.”

Dow asked for special meetings after the 2010 death of Aja Johnson, 7, and the June death of Serenity Deal, 5.

He brought up five other children's deaths in one of his requests for a meeting about Serenity.

“Not once has the Commission discussed any of these horrific situations nor attempted to understand how our agency failed these children. Not once,” he wrote in an email to other commissioners.

“For a system to allow so many tragic deaths in such a short period of time is unconscionable. For us to not invite someone who has investigated the cases nor even ask our staff to explain what, from their perspective, happened is irresponsible and an utter dereliction of our duty to oversee the Department,” he wrote.

Dow said only one other commissioner, Anne Roberts, of Norman, agreed to a special meeting on Serenity.

Against a special meeting over Serenity was Commissioner Aneta Wilkinson, of Tulsa.

Wilkinson wrote in an email to Dow: “I firmly believe that DHS is handling this very unfortunate matter in the correct way. This terrible incident is not a system failure but involves the actions of individual people.

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