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We need you to call!

2017 House of Representatives list

We are very excited to announce that Senate Bill 717 passed the Public Health Committee on April 4 with an 8-0 vote.

Next, the bill will be heard by the full House of Representatives, and we need your help to reach out to legislators so they’ll know why this bill is so important.

The Child Protection Coalition strongly supports the Restricted Registry legislation as a way to attack the problem of child abuse.

Through this legislation, employers will be required to cross-check registries so that an employee cannot have a substantiated abuse case at one type of facility and then go to another type of facility also dealing with children to be rehired. For example, a person who abused a child while working at a licensed daycare would have to be checked in the Restricted Registry before being hired at a facility operated by the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

We feel that this legislation will keep our most vulnerable children safe from abusive adults working in a variety of child care settings and institutions.

We anticipate that the Restricted Registry will go to the House floor in the coming days, so we ask that you click here to find the email and phone number for your Representative.

Our Coalition is strongest when we speak with one voice, and this definitely is an issue we can all get behind!

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Tulsa World – Ed Lake: DHS needs citizen help in dealing with foster care challenge

“The Department of Human Services is making steady progress in improving our foster care system in Oklahoma, and we are committed to building on this momentum in the additional time we have been granted to continue this important work. In the days, weeks and months ahead, DHS will persist in its efforts to ensure the system is consistently providing the level of support kids need and deserve while they are in state care.

Caring for our state’s most vulnerable children is a moral, social and legal imperative that has its greatest potential when DHS partners with communities to develop and implement the most promising solutions to the causes and effects of abuse and neglect.

We are so grateful to the thousands of Oklahomans who have opened their homes and their hearts to become foster and adoptive families to the children we serve. We could not do this work without the love and support of these families.

There is yet more opportunity for Oklahomans to pitch in, as our greatest need remains to secure more homes for children with medical needs and developmental disabilities. Sadly, these are the children occupying emergency shelters and other facilities because there are not enough families for them.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire Tulsa World opinion piece, published on September 10, 2016.

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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.

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DHS announces budget cuts for state fiscal year 2017

DHS News release, August 3, 2016
DHS announces budget cuts for state fiscal year 2017

Director Ed Lake says agency will seek supplemental funding.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, facing a more than $100 million shortfall in its current fiscal year budget, announced $45 million in reductions the agency is beginning to make. DHS warned that supplemental funding will be needed early in the next calendar year for the agency to make it through the fiscal year without serious consequences.

“We have been upfront with legislative leaders all year long about the DHS budget, our increasing costs, and the limitations we face when trying to make reductions,” said DHS Director Ed Lake.  “It is fiscally impossible to reduce $100 million out of our budget without putting thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans at risk.”

At the end of the legislative session, Lake said there was an agreement and expectation by legislative leaders that DHS would not make cuts to Medicaid programs that provide home-based care to older Oklahomans and persons with disabilities; however, there was also an expectation that DHS request supplemental funding to help bridge the significant budget gap that would result.  Lake said even with the $45 million in budget reductions, by Spring of 2017 the agency may not have the ability to make payroll or pay contractors that provide direct care to the thousands of Oklahomans the agency serves.

Read the entire OKDHS News Release by CLICKING HERE!

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Tulsa World: Seen – The Kids at Laura Dester

“When I arrived at the Laura Dester Shelter for an assignment Wednesday, I met three brothers, ages 10, 11 and 12, who had just arrived at the shelter the night before. They wanted more than anything for me to dance with them, take their picture and play on my iPhone.

The Tulsa shelter for abused and neglected children is expected to close around January. When I asked the boys what they liked about the shelter, the middle brother told me: ‘They have fun places here and Xbox. This place is happy.’

‘This is like heaven for them,’ said Phyllis Williams, a direct care specialist at Laura Dester Shelter. ‘It’s a safe place.'”

Read the entire Tulsa World article by clicking here – published July 17, 2016.

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Tulsa World: Laura Dester Hosting Suitors For Next Use

“In March, staffers almost shut the doors of the Laura Dester Shelter with nearly all foster children placed in a home or group setting. Then, another wave of children and teens arrived.

It is inevitable the Tulsa shelter for abused and neglected children will close. It’s part of a 2012 federal settlement agreement and an integral part of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ child-welfare improvement effort, called the Pinnacle Plan.

While there is no concrete deadline, officials say it likely will be about January before the shelter is shuttered. On Wednesday, 27 children and youth were in the shelter.

‘We won’t close until we find a home for every child. Not just finding any place or sticking kids anywhere, but really finding the right place for them,’ said the shelter’s assistant director, Bill Waller. ‘We are literally the last safety net for children taken into custody.’

Still, plans are rolling forward. Earlier this week, DHS held an open house for three prospective partners, which all work with children and youth: A for-profit group home, a nonprofit group home and a nonprofit program providing mental health services.”

Read the entire Tulsa World article by clicking here – published on July 14, 2016.

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DHS Releases Request for Information Regarding the Repurposing of the Laura Dester Center

Request for Information: The repurposing of the Laura Dester Center

 

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Welfare Services (CWS) is interested in receiving information on potential proposals, plans, or ideas for the repurposing of the Laura Dester Children’s Center at 7318 E Pine St, Tulsa, OK 74115. The intent of this RFI is to allow all interested parties to have an equal and fair opportunity to participate in how the facility will be utilized for the betterment of Oklahoma children and the surrounding community.

Representing one of the final pieces of the plan to reduce and eventually discontinue the use of emergency shelters, the Laura Dester Children’s Center will no longer serve the community as an emergency shelter.

DHS and community leaders have explored and discussed at length potential uses for the facility. This RFI represents the official means of determining the number of interested parties, potential uses, and what the necessary next steps will be.

DHS will hold an open house July 12, 2016 at the Laura Dester Children’s Center; a guided tour will begin promptly at 10:00 am. This tour is specifically for those interested in submitting the Request for Information regarding its repurposing.

CLICK HERE to download the RFI. Instructions for filling it out and submitting it are included.

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The Chronicle of Social Change – With High Caseloads, L.A. County Again Faces Overstays in Shelters

“Three months after Los Angeles County shifted many hard-to-place children in foster care from two emergency shelters to four private contractors, the issue of children staying too long before finding a home persists. In one crisis situation, children were returned to the Children’s Welcome Center. In February, L.A. County’s Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) announced the closures of the Children’s and Youth Welcome Centers as part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought against the agency by the state. The lawsuit centered on chronic “overstays” by children at the facilities, which were licensed to keep children for up to 24 hours. After closing the welcome centers, the county contracted with four private agencies to serve as temporary, 72-hour shelters for youth who have been removed from their biological family’s home or previous foster placement while the agency works to find them new homes. But in recent weeks, some children have been temporarily placed at the Children’s Welcome Center for the first time since its closure.”

Read more by CLICKING HERE. Story published in The Chronicle of Social Change by Elizabeth Green on June 15, 2016.

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Tulsa World: DHS monitors fret over budget cuts impacting child welfare

Big gains have been made in eliminating shelter use for abused and neglected children, but problems persist in maltreatment of foster children and finding placements for kids with special needs, according to a progress report released Friday.

But the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall is a significant concern from the monitors of an improvement plan for Oklahoma’s child-welfare system. The three-person oversight committee of the Department of Human Services’ Pinnacle Plan, which is the agreement stemming from a federal class-action lawsuit, found a mixed bag of results since its last report in December.

“DHS began to show meaningful progress toward reasonable caseloads late in 2014, and continued to do so through the most recent period,” the report states. “For this reason, it is deeply concerning that DHS may not maintain all planned activities in this reform effort due to Oklahoma’s reported revenue failures. The gains made by DHS since 2012 are fragile, and in many instances have not taken root firmly within the agency. Following the investment of new resources to set this agency on a trajectory of reform, it could be a shattering setback for children, DHS, and this reform, if efforts now halt and progress is reversed.”

Read the entire Tulsa World Article by clicking here – published on April 30, 2016.

CLICK HERE to read OKDHS Director Ed Lake’s comments on April 2016 commentary from neutral monitors overseeing child welfare progress.

 

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Coalition “Community Forum” Reports on the State of Child Abuse and Child Welfare Systems in Tulsa County