In 2017 and 2018, the Child Protection Coalition’s Advocacy Committee is tackling an important topic for abused children in foster care: the Foster Child Bill of Rights.
For many years, there has been a Foster Parent Bill of Rights, and the Child Protection Coalition feels strongly that children will be well-served by having all their rights in one place so that they, their attorney, their caseworkers, Court Appointed Special Advocate, foster parents, and anyone else involved in the process can have the child’s rights laid out concisely.
The committee is composed of Maura Guten, executive director of Tulsa CASA; Timothy Michaels-Johnson, assistant director of Tulsa Lawyers for Children; Carrie Little, director of external relations for The Parent Child Center of Tulsa; Donna Mathews, chief operating officer of Domestic Violence Intervention Services; Chris Siemens, executive director of Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children; and Steve Lewis, who serves as the Coalition’s legislative liaison.
The bill is being authored by Rep. Pat Ownbey in the House of Representatives and by Sen. AJ Griffin in the Senate.
We are thrilled that Gov. Mary Fallin approved the Foster Child Bill of Rights on April 15, 2018.
House Bill 2552 by Rep. Pat Ownbey establishes certain rights for children in Department of Human Services’ (DHS) custody with regard to their placement, safety, privacy, communication and personal growth. The measure also directs DHS and child placing agencies to develop grievance procedures for children in custody.
“The governor’s signature on this important piece of legislation means children across our state will now have a statutorily enforced set of rights that are found in one place,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “Before this measure, most of these rights were found in policies at one agency or another, but now children and foster parents will have easy access to this information.”
The Office of Client Advocacy will establish procedures to ensure grievances are resolved no more than 60 days after they are filed. Children who are age-appropriate will receive notification on procedures and how to file complaints.
Foster children and parents will receive a statement of the bill of rights each year.
“I’m honored to have worked with so many experts as we strengthened our child protection laws,” Ownbey said. “This group is made up of members of DHS, law enforcement, Court Appointed Special Advocates – or CASA – and a number of other stakeholders.
The legislation passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate. It will take effect Nov. 1, 2018.
We are so happy to report that the Restricted Registry legislation has passed and will be on its way to the Governor soon.
The Child Protection Coalition sees the registry 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 know that lots of supporters called their senators and representatives to show their support, and we’d like to say Thank You!
CLICK HERE to find and contact your legislator!
Writing Tips (Letter or Email)
1. Identify yourself and explain your relationship to the issue: “I am president of _________, an organization serving ____ members statewide. We are concerned about___________.”
2. Be Brief: Limit yourself to 250–500 words, no longer!
3. Focus on one issue per communication. Legislators dislike laundry lists of issues.
4. Reference the bill number. If you’re writing about pending legislation, either include the bill number or identify the subject as best you can.
5. Include your name, address, phone number, and email. If a lawmaker doesn’t know how to reach you, he or she cannot respond. Emails or faxes are recommended, especially in congressional offices where mail must go through security procedures.
6. Clearly state your position on the issue. Give reasons for your point of view. Tell how it affects you personally, your family, business, profession, or the community.
7. Be reasonable. Legislators are human too. Don’t ask for the impossible. Always be willing to suggest alternatives to the bill or your original suggestion
8. Be specific about any request you may have. “Please let me know your views on this bill/issue…” “Would you be willing to author new legislation in the area of…” “Can you get back to me by (date)?”
9. Write “from the heart.” Avoid stereotyped sentences or cliché phrases that might make your letter look like a form letter. Form letters look like they’re part of an organized pressure campaign and don’t have as much impact as a personal letter.
10. Always say thank you to the legislator and staff people.
11.Send an email from your personal email address, not your work address.
Questions? Contact CPC Staff by CLICKING HERE!
The Child Protection Coalition works closely with legislative liaison Steve Lewis, Oklahoma’s former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Lewis and members of the CPC Advocacy Committee identified and tracked bills considered during the 2016 legislative session that make an impact on Oklahoma child welfare.
To view those bills that were signed into law by Governor Fallin, CLICK HERE.
The Advocacy Committee also worked with Steve Lewis regarding critical 2016 budget decisions impacting the child protection system. CLICK HERE to view a letter sent to our local Oklahoma legislators on May 16, 2016 from Executive Director, Kristine D. Bridges, and Advocacy Committee Chair, Maura Wilson. Members were encouraged to use the letter as a guide when contacting their own legislators.
Click on the next tab for tips on sending messages to legislators, and to find contact information for your legislator.
On October 11, 2016, members of the Child Protection Coalition (CPC) Advocacy Committee participated in an interim study led by Senator A.J. Griffin (R – District 20) to investigate the creation of a child abuse registry for the state of Oklahoma.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony from the Oklahoma Commission on Children & Youth, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and five witnesses from the CPC Advocacy Committee: Maura Wilson-Guten (Advocacy Committee Chair, Executive Director of Tulsa CASA), Dennis Robins (Arkansas DHS Field Manager, Backgrounds & Notifications Units), Sara McAmis (Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney), Christine Marsh (Senior Director of Child Abuse & Trauma Services at Family & Children’s Services), and Tenna Whitsel (Director of Family & Community Engagement for Tulsa Public Schools).
CLICK HERE to view the CPC Presentation.
CLICK HERE to view KFOR Oklahoma City news coverage of the study, including an interview with CPC witness Christine Marsh.
CLICK HERE to read coverage in Oklahoma Watch.
CLICK HERE to read coverage in the McCarville Report.