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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.

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.

www.childabusenetwork.org

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

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

The Child Protection Coalition welcomes new Executive Director, Nellie Kelly! Kelly joined the CPC team on October 24, 2016.

Kelly has 14 years of experience serving Tulsa nonprofits, including the American Red Cross, American Heart Association and Transitional Living Centers of Oklahoma. Before coming to the Coalition, she worked as marketing director and waiting child coordinator for Dillon International, a nonprofit international adoption agency.

Kelly’s interest in helping children and families began in 1999 when, while working as a reporter at the Tulsa World, she became a foster parent for the Department of Human Services. She continued fostering until the fall of 2015, when her fourth adoption was finalized.

Kelly is committed to working with community partners so that abused and neglected children receive the protection, justice and healing they deserve.

Read Kelly’s introduction letter to Coalition members and friends by CLICKING HERE.

In an effort to aid in the support of foster care and kinship families in the Tulsa County area, the Child Protection Coalition hosted a FREE conference on September 24, 2016. This collaborative effort was led by a Child Protection Coalition Foster Care Support Committee comprised of representatives from Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Family & Children’s Services, the National Resource Center for Youth Services, the Parent Child Center of Tulsa, and Zero To Three (Tulsa County Safe Babies Court Team). The conference was underwritten by a Tulsa Area United Way Community Collaborations Grant. The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Chan Hellman of the University of Oklahoma, speaking on “The Science and Power of Hope.” Foster care and kinship parents chose to attend a variety of educational sessions, as well as network and learn from local service providers.

“Collaborative partnerships among child welfare stakeholders are invaluable to supporting the foster care and kinship parents in our community,” said Child Protection Coalition Executive Director Kristine D. Bridges, “We are grateful to the Tulsa Area United Way for their critical support of this important collaborative initiative benefiting those who care for the most vulnerable children in Tulsa county.”

Read coverage of the conference in Tulsa Business & Legal News by CLICKING HERE.

“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.

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.