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Oklahoma DHS officials tweak reform plan

Babies would no longer be housed in state shelters by the end of the year and actions would be taken to improve DHS customer service under a revised state child welfare reform plan submitted this week.
by Randy Ellis Published: May 3, 2012

Customer service training will be required of all staff that have not completed it within the past year and all staff will be “evaluated based on their ability to appropriately and timely respond to potential resource parents,” the plan states.

The Oklahoman reported recently that a four- to six-month backlog in processing home studies for foster parents has delayed placement of children in traditional foster homes and delayed payments to kinship foster parents.

Speeding process

The revised plan calls for use of contractors and volunteers to speed up home studies.

“By Dec. 31, OKDHS will shorten the length of time expected to complete home studies to 30 days and shorten the length of time from application to certification to no more than 60 days unless the family chooses to extend the process,” the revised plan states.

The updated Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan also provides new details about the sizes of pay increases for child welfare workers that the DHS intends to request from the state Legislature.

The agency wants to give three classifications of child welfare workers incremental annual raises that would hike their pay 26 percent to 40 percent by the end of five years.

Pay increases are needed to make agency salaries “more competitive with other states,” the report says.

It cites examples of proposed pay increases that would be phased in incrementally over five years. The pay of a child welfare II worker would gradually increase from $2,624 to $3,307; the pay of a child welfare III worker would increase from $2,894 to $4,040; and pay of a child welfare IV worker would increase from $3,466 to $4,604.

“A salary increase alone is not likely to bring about the changes needed in the Oklahoma child welfare system,” the report states. “However, OKDHS is in a workforce crisis. For the past year, it has been very difficult to attract an adequate pool of eligible candidates and retain high-performing staff in a complex and challenging field when salaries are not competitive.”

Smith said she doesn't expect there to be much cost difference between the original and revised reform plans submitted by the agency. Officials said previously they expect proposed reforms to cost nearly $150 million more a year, once they are all in place.

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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