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Oklahoma kids in DHS care face dangers, report finds

BY RANDY ELLIS Modified: November 12, 2009 at 6:47 am •  Published: November 12, 2009
TULSA — Treatment of children in Oklahoma’s child welfare system has been "incomprehensible, unimaginable, outrageous and immoral,” a child welfare expert stated Wednesday in a report filed in Tulsa federal court.

Child welfare consultant Peg McCartt Hess wrote that she reviewed the case files of five children in custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and was extremely alarmed by the "neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse” the children experienced while in state care.

One foster care child was routinely "hit with tree switches” by his foster parents, Hess reported. She quoted one of the foster parents as stating, "If you don’t beat them down they will run all over you.”

Hess described other children in state care who had been scalded in bath water, beaten with a belt or sexually molested.

One 5-year-old boy was so emotionally distraught after being bounced around various DHS placements that he repeatedly threatened to harm himself by jumping out of a van or window "to go to heaven,” Hess wrote.

"His DHS worker failed to increase the frequency of face-to-face contact to monitor his safety and/or to meet with him privately,” Hess reported.

Another child welfare expert who reviewed the case files of nine DHS foster children concluded the system is dangerous for children.