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Oklahoma House panel looks at privatizing child welfare system

Proponents say it would bring more accountability and transparency to the system. DHS officials say legislation passed last year has the agency moving in the right direction.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: September 29, 2010

"These are the criteria under which we're judged, and they're measurable," he said. "You have to have a system that can give you information data measurability — are you getting better or are you getting worse?

Marq Youngblood, chief operating officer for DHS, said privatization would not save money. It is a complicated and massive challenge, and that just because it may work in one state does not mean it would be successful in Oklahoma.

Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Goodwell, said he plans to again file legislation next session that would form a task force to look into the child welfare services.

Peters said he is heartened that DHS has made improvements in child welfare services since his legislation, House Bill 1734, passed last year. DHS has continued to increase worker retention, brought down its daily shelter population, reduced the number of children in out-of-home care, and achieved a record level of adoptions, he said.

The legislation came from suggestions in a $420,000 audit of DHS. Peters said he would like legislators to consider other suggestions in the audit.

"We seem to be getting the same results with less money," he said.

Stephanie Stone, a DHS child welfare worker from Oklahoma City, told the panel that HB 1734 should be given time.

"We're seeing a lot of progress," she said. "To pull the plug now and go to privatization, I think, would spell disaster for our children and our families."



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