A group pushing to overhaul Oklahoma’s child welfare system will host its second rally in less than two weeks today at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Justice Center. The rally will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the center, 5905 N Classen Blvd. The rally is sponsored by the Oklahoma Family Rights Coalition, which has circulated initiative petitions twice this year calling for a public vote on overhauling the child welfare system. The group withdrew its first initiative petition in April after gathering only about 85,000 of the 117,013 necessary signatures within the 90-day period allowed. A second petition drive failed when an air-conditioner leak collapsed the ceiling above a room where petitions bearing thousands of signatures were stored, said Clarence Cooper, president and chairman of the coalition. The petitions were doused with water, ruining most of the signatures, Cooper said. "That loss was just gut-wrenching,” he said. Cooper said the coalition turned in a partial box of completed petitions July 29 but readily acknowledged there were too few names to get the issue on the ballot when the signatures are counted Aug. 12. The coalition plans to begin a third petition drive this month or in early September, he said. The July 24 rally drew eight participants. The coalition’s goal remains unchanged, Cooper said. "Our single largest issue is the unalienable violation of civil and Constitutional liberties of families and children and lack of accountability,” Cooper said. "If you ever have to file a complaint on a Department of Human Services issue, good luck getting it through. "We want them to focus on children who need protection and ... simultaneously focus on families who don’t need to be separated,” he said, adding he thinks many families would be better served by simple, in-home services.
president and chairman of the Oklahoma Family Rights Coalition