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Transition plan announced for Laura Dester

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.

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DHS Seeking Time on Shelter

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.

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‘Child Maltreatment’ Reported at Laura Dester Shelter

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?

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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.