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Oklahoma foster system in "severe disarray," lawsuit claims

BY RANDY ELLIS Published: December 4, 2008
TULSA — Nine Oklahoma foster children were bounced around among 176 primary caseworkers because of “severe disarray” within DHS, attorneys said in documents filed Thursday in Tulsa federal court.

The state Department of Human Services also had 125 secondary workers and 190 supervisors overseeing care of those children, documents reveal.

“These staggering numbers reflect severe disarray in the basic oversight of children in state custody,” the children’s attorneys stated.

DHS spokesman George Johnson said Thursday he had not seen the court filings and could not comment.

The disclosures came in an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by attorneys associated with Children’s Rights, a New York-based child advocacy organization.

The attorneys currently represent nine children, but are seeking class action status to represent all children in DHS custody. The attorneys claim DHS has violated the children’s federal constitutional rights by failing to give them proper care and treatment and failing to provide them with safe and adequate living conditions. There are currently about 7,230 Oklahoma children in foster care.

The children’s attorneys have been battling DHS for e-mails by the current and past caseworkers and supervisors assigned to the nine children they represent.

Attorneys for the children claim DHS attorneys have been stonewalling them for months and now want them to pay costs of retrieving the e-mails.

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