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.
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.