Overwhelmed by the rapid increase of abused and neglected children taken into state custody, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services on Monday requested nearly $33 million in supplemental state funding to get through the next four months.
“The piper will be paid some day,” DHS Director Ed Lake told the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Human Services on Monday. “We can’t keep carrying over funds to run operational issues like salaries and foster care rates and payments to homes.”
Lake told subcommittee members that about $11.6 million of the extra money is needed to comply with terms of the Pinnacle Plan, a reform plan developed as part of a settlement agreement to a Tulsa class-action lawsuit over the treatment of children in state custody. The other $21.3 million is needed to pay for expenses that have increased due to the skyrocketing number of children taken into state custody, he said.
DHS’ funding problems continue despite the agency having received $57 million in new funding from the Legislature over the past two years.
Subcommittee Chairman Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, cautioned the agency against high expectations of additional funding.
“We would all like to pay workers more,” Nelson said. “It’s actually imperative. The issue is just the budget. ... The revenue streams coming into state government are not cooperating. So it’s going to make funding difficult, whether it’s for this supplemental appropriation request or for the appropriations next year.”
The number of children taken into state custody has ballooned from about 8,500 in July 2012 to about 11,000 today, Lake told subcommittee members Monday.
Pressure is on
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