Share “Oklahoma DHS officials tweak reform plan”

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

DHS officials have revised their child welfare reform plan, agreeing that abused and neglected babies should no longer be housed in state shelters after the end of the year.

Officials also pledged to take actions to improve customer service at the Department of Human Services.

“I'm pretty pleased with the revisions,” said Deborah Smith, DHS director of Children and Family Services.

Smith said she was particularly happy about revisions designed to assist families in becoming foster parents more quickly.

DHS was required to develop a child welfare reform plan as part of a settlement agreement announced last January. The settlement resolved a federal class-action lawsuit over the alleged maltreatment of abused and neglected children in state custody.

DHS officials presented three out-of-state monitors with the initial draft of its proposed plan in late March. The monitors then received comments from the child advocacy group that filed the lawsuit. The monitors met with DHS officials last week to discuss suggested changes.

DHS submitted a revised reform plan to the monitors Tuesday.

Future changes are possible.

Most of the original reform recommendations remain intact, including plans to decrease caseloads, add 200 new child welfare workers over the next two years and recruit 500 new traditional foster families by the end of the first fiscal year. The agency wants more foster families so it can stop using its often-overcrowded shelters to care for the youngest abused and neglected children.

The revised plan incorporates a few changes, however.

It speeds up the process for getting abused and neglected babies out of state shelters and into family-like settings.

The original plan called for eliminating the use of shelters for children younger than 6 years old by June 30, 2013.

The new plan would require that all children under 2 years old be placed in family-like settings by Dec. 31, while leaving the earlier date intact for children ages 2 to 6.

DHS pledged to improve customer service in order to recruit and retain more foster parents.

About 5,000 families expressed an interest in becoming foster families during fiscal year 2011, but did not make it through the approval process.

“Approximately 15 percent of families who expressed interest dropped out of the process due to poor customer service,” the revised plan states, citing surveys and interviews.

Continue reading this story on the...

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...
+ show more


  1. 1
    Two arrested in fatal shooting of woman found dead in Camaro at Tulsa intersection
  2. 2
    Your guide to fall festivals in Oklahoma
  3. 3
    Serge Ibaka makes's Top 25 NBA players
  4. 4
    7 perfect fall foliage drives for taking in the scenery
  5. 5
    EW: Texas football shines bright in exclusive 'My All American' trailer
+ show more


× Trending politics Article