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OKDHS News Release: DHS, children’s counsel and monitors agree to extend time frame for foster care reform

The expert monitors overseeing implementation of the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Pinnacle Plan to improve Oklahoma’s foster care system have agreed to a joint request of the department and counsel to the children to extend the timeline to fully implement the agency’s reform efforts.
In 2012, DHS settled a class-action lawsuit filed against its foster care system and agreed to make improvements in targeted areas within that system. The settlement agreement established an ambitious five-year plan  to improve performance in critical areas such as reducing the use of emergency shelters for young children, increasing the numbers of foster families, increasing the numbers of caseworkers, reducing caseworker workloads, and reducing the rate of maltreatment (abuse and neglect) in care.
The co-neutrals, a group of three child welfare experts, will continue to monitor the department’s progress, provide it with technical assistance, and require additional specific action‎ steps where necessary.

DHS Director Ed Lake says the settlement agreement represents a unique approach to achieving system reform.

“An effort like this has never been tried anywhere. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the timelines and initiatives laid out four years ago in the Pinnacle Plan were overly optimistic given the challenges we faced. Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made and we are seeing the benefits of the plan’s scope.

“The state of Oklahoma has invested more than $150 million into funding reforms since the beginning of the Pinnacle Plan,” said Lake. “The increased funding has allowed our agency to add more than 800 new case workers and supervisors to the child welfare work force, reduce workloads and increase their salaries; recruit and approve more than 3,000 new foster families and increase their reimbursement rates; and, significantly reduce the use of emergency shelters for kids. Despite our progress, however, we are going to need more time to reach and sustain all of our goals.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire news release, posted on September 6, 2016.