On December 17, 2018, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and Liberty of Oklahoma Corporation celebrated the reopening of the Laura Dester Children’s Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The center will be a treatment facility for foster children with both a behavioral health diagnosis along with developmental delay.

Liberty will contract with DHS to operate the facility and has a similar facility for adults in Enid.


Open the annual report to see all of the OKDHS statistics, including child care licensing, adult protective services and child welfare.

Read the whole article

By Corey Jones

Tulsa World

An oversight panel has asked a federal judge to essentially order the Laura Dester Children Center closed by June 30, according to a news release Thursday from a national child welfare advocacy group.

The move follows the Department of Human Services announcement April 30 of a plan to stop operating as a shelter in September and transition into a treatment center for vulnerable children.

The Laura Dester shelter has been at the center of controversy over its continued operation as a children’s shelter despite a settlement agreement that outlines its closure after a 2008 federal class-action lawsuit alleged abuse of state foster care children.

Click Here for News Release

See News Coverage of the Transition Plan


For Media Inquiries, Contact:
Sheree Powell – DHS Office of Communications
Phone: (405) 521-3027
Email: Sheree.Powell@okdhs.org
April 30, 2018

DHS Ending Use of Laura Dester Children’s Center as Shelter

Oklahoma City — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) announced it will cease using the Laura Dester Children’s Center in Tulsa as a shelter for abused and neglected children in September, and will transition the facility into a treatment center for children with co-occurring intellectual disabilities, mental illness and extreme behavioral issues.

“We have been greatly encouraged by our ability to prevent new admissions to the shelter, the development of placement options for children with a variety of needs, and by the movement of 22 children from the center during the past month and a half,” said Ed Lake, Director of DHS. “By continuing to build on these concerted efforts, we are confident we will have placements identified and transition plans underway for the remaining 20 children at the center by September 1 and even sooner if at all possible. And we will continue our no-admissions policy for this duration.”

Over the past year, the center had become the placement of last resort for children and youth whom DHS could not locate placements for, typically those with involved intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and extreme behavioral challenges. DHS has not placed a child or youth at Laura Dester since March 8.

DHS has been working for several months to develop new placement options for children with these higher levels of needs including more group homes, agency companion homes for children with intellectual disabilities, and family foster homes. DHS has also started the application process to obtain a targeted Medicaid waiver to serve children with intellectual disabilities in community homes. During the same time, more staff have been hired and trained to provide care for the children at Laura Dester and other measures have been taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents.

Children and youth with challenging needs and behaviors take longer to successfully transition into placements due to the level of planning involved. A transition plan must ensure all necessary services and safeguards are identified and in place, and the family or treatment provider is making a good connection with the child for long-term stability.

DHS is currently in a competitive bidding process to identify a qualified provider to operate a Medicaid Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-IDD) using the Laura Dester Children’s Center campus. The goal is for the new ICF-IDD to be in operation by November 2018.

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.

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 Child Protection Coalition’s Advocacy Committee is chaired by Maura Guten, executive director of Tulsa CASA. Committee members include 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.

From the Tulsa World: DHS Seeking Time on Shelter

Read about the state’s plan for the Laura Dester Children’s Center.


One of the biggest needs is more group home beds. Here’s the plan.

From the Tulsa World:

Learn the latest from the co-neutrals about the Laura Dester Children’s Center.


Why is the Laura Dester Center Still Open?

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!

Indian Health Care Resource Center (IHCRC) is a community response to the funding and healthcare disparities of Tulsa’s urban Indian community. Almost 40 years after inception, IHCRC remains dedicated to providing quality, comprehensive healthcare to Tulsa area Indian people in a culturally sensitive manner that promotes good health, well-being, and harmony. From a part-time physician in 1977 to today’s state-of-the-art facility, IHCRC continues to positively impact the health of Tulsa’s Native community.

During a recent conversation with Dr. Rachele Floyd, IHCRC Director of Behavioral Health, CPC staff learned about health challenges our Native population faces, as well as why it is important to leadership of IHCRC to be part of local child welfare discussions. This is what she shared.

CPC: What are the challenges you face within the child welfare system in Tulsa?

One of the biggest challenges we face is the number of professionals involved in a case.  Children we see often have a DHS worker, Indian Child Welfare worker, CASA, foster parent, biological parent, therapist, psychiatrist, etc.  It is often difficult to coordinate care for children when there are so many systems involved, and to ensure that the child remains the focus.  Just obtaining the right paperwork we need to begin providing treatment can be a daunting task, and sometimes add unneeded waiting time before we can get the child scheduled with a therapist.  Often it is difficult just to figure out who has legal custody of the child, so we can ensure to get the proper consents signed.  We are so blessed to have our Systems of Care (SOC) program, which often helps get everyone on board and working together.  However, if this feels difficult for us professionals to juggle and get straight, I can’t imagine what it’s like for the child.

CPC: What do you feel are the positive impacts you make on kids’ lives in our community?

Children are a huge priority at IHCRC, with every clinic within our facility working hard to ensure that quality care is provided to our most vulnerable tribal members.  Children at our clinic can see a pediatrician, psychiatrist, optometrist, dentist, mental health counselor, and dietitian all under the same roof!  We provide psychological testing so that children with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other issues are diagnosed accurately and receive appropriate treatment.  Our mental health staff are trained in various evidence based treatments, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and others.  Behavioral Health services are provided for individuals and families throughout the lifespan, so that we can impact the entire system rather than just the individual.  Our SOC team works closely with schools to get children placed on IEPs and 504 plans, and keep children in school.  Our SOC team also works closely with mental health professionals and the family to keep at risk kids out of hospitals and at home with their families.  As well as providing treatment, our facility has been granted funding through the Indian Health Service to provide prevention programming to Native American youth.  We provide suicide, drug use, and domestic violence prevention in 5 area schools, as well as providing cultural activities for Native children throughout the year.

CPC: What is the one thing you would like the public to know about the work you do?

We pride ourselves in being the provider of choice for many Native Americans in the Tulsa area, regardless of whether they have a payer source or not.  Our clients come from all walks of life, from homeless individuals to top executives.  All services we provide are at no cost to the individual.

CPC: Why do you feel it is important for your agency to be involved in the Child Protection Coalition?

Native American youth are at a higher risk of developing substance use problems, being depressed, and committing suicide than any other ethnic group.  The risk factors for developing mental health and substance abuse problems often are a result of childhood experiences, including abuse and neglect.  Many Native parents have difficulty knowing how to parent, due to a history of families being broken up by the federal government and children being sent to boarding schools far away from their parents, their homes, and everything they know.  When there are problems in the home, evidence has shown that Native children are more frequently removed from the home than non-Native children.  Native American children are disproportionately represented in foster care, with the number of available Native foster homes being far below that of the number of children needing homes.  Due to these factors, IHCRC believes that it is important that a Native voice be heard whenever issues of child protection are being discussed.  We believe that as an agency, we have the unique opportunity of being both the voice of many urban Native Americans who have been caught up in the child welfare system, and also a part of the healing process for our clients, providing mental health and other services to those impacted by poverty, trauma, the breakup of the family, etc.

To learn more about Indian Health Care Resource Center, the work they do, and ways you can help them to further their mission visit their website. www.ihcrc.org 

IHCRC is located at 550 S Peoria in Tulsa

IHCRC is located at 550 S Peoria in Tulsa, OK

The mission of the Child Abuse Network (CAN) is to provide collaborative intervention services to child abuse victims, so that they are encouraged to embrace a future driven by hope. CAN serves as the coordinator for the multiple agencies that interact with children of reported child abuse. The result is a collaborative and non-duplicated inter-agency approach to investigate abuse and protect children in crisis.

A recent conversation between Child Protection Coalition staff and Barbara Findeiss, CAN’s Executive Director, provided further insight regarding why the agency exists and the difference they make in our community. Here is what she shared.

CPC: What are the challenges you face within the child welfare system in Tulsa?

As part of Tulsa County’s child abuse response system, CAN’s primary challenge is in serving the high volume of children in need of CAN’s services.

CPC: What do you feel are the positive impacts you make on kids’ lives in our community?

CAN helps to reduce the trauma that a child abuse investigation can pose for a child. By connecting with children through a child-focused environment where they feel safe enough to share experiences, CAN is able to help children begin to understand that they matter and that they are not alone. CAN’s brief time with a child is intentionally focused on helping them begin the transition from hurt to healing.

CPC: What is the one thing you would like the public to know about the work you do?

Although we may see “sad” things at CAN, it is a positive and uplifting place for children as well as protecting family members and staff. In one appointment, the negative impact of abuse can transform into relief and hope. CAN provides the possibilities of new beginnings.

CPC: Why do you feel it is important for your agency to be involved in the Child Protection Coalition?

CAN’s philosophy statement sums it up:  Child abuse damages our community’s most vulnerable citizens, and often has generational implications. In the context of violence, child abuse is a public health problem that presents complex social and moral dilemmas concerning its cause, effect and remedy. Addressing child abuse requires a comprehensive plan with multiple, coordinated strategies.

To learn more about CAN and how you can help the agency accomplish their mission, visit their website today.


CAN Team Representatives (Executive Director Barbara Findeiss - front row, center)

CAN Team Representatives (Executive Director Barbara Findeiss – front row, center)