CHILD welfare advocates have been begging for years for wholesale changes at the state Department of Human Services. Some of those changes are coming fast. Others will take time. Balancing patience with a righteous sense of urgency to get help for our state's most vulnerable children will be a continuing challenge.
Oklahomans have responded — as we knew they would — to the call to help our state's children. The state is in desperate need of more foster homes. As The Oklahoman's Randy Ellis detailed in a recent report, an uptick in the number of families willing to take in foster children has exacerbated a backlog in the approval process.
Ellis found that DHS is facing a four- to six-month backlog in conducting home studies that are required before foster children can be placed in a home. Meantime, many of those children — including babies — are housed in overcrowded shelters.
The backlog also creates issues for foster families who are due payments to help finance the cost of caring for the children. That's a roadblock for some families who want to participate in the program but need financial help.
We beg those families to be patient for a while longer.
Brad Yarbrough, chairman of the DHS oversight commission, called last week on agency employees to conduct business with a customer service attitude. He rightly emphasized that community members and groups wanting to help must be met with a welcoming attitude. This hasn't always been the case in the past.
“There is no room in this agency for mediocrity,” interim agency director Preston Doerflinger said. “The mission of this agency is too critical to have people who do not want to perform at the very highest level every day.”