“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.

“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.

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.

“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.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Tulsa CASA  recruits, screens, trains and supervises community volunteers who advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the juvenile court system.  They are specially trained volunteers who are appointed by a juvenile judge to serve as the child’s voice in court.  A CASA is responsible for meeting with and gathering information from the child, their family, other individuals and service providers on a child’s case. This information is compiled in a report to the court illustrating the CASA’s concerns, assessments and recommendations.  This information assists the judge in determining the best possible placement for a child.

Recently, Child Protection Coalition staff spoke with Maura Wilson-Guten, Tulsa CASA’s Executive Director, regarding the challenges and rewards of her work.

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

Ms. Wilson-Guten: Our biggest challenge is having enough volunteers to serve the nearly 2,000 children in foster care in Tulsa County.  Presently there are only enough CASAs to serve on about 25% of the cases.  Our wish is to provide a CASA for every child who needs one.

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

Ms. Wilson-Guten: CASAs are known as “a powerful voice in a child’s life”  We know that children who have a CASA receive more services, do better in school,  find permanency faster and are less likely to re-enter the child welfare system than children without a CASA.

CPC: What is one thing you would like the public to know about your job?

Ms. Wilson-Guten: Upon learning of a CASA’s role many people say “oh, I could never do that” but you can!  All it takes is one caring adult to change the life of a child.  CASAs are assigned after a child has been removed from an abusive situation and assist in helping them find a safe, permanent home.  We are part of the solution.

CPC: Why are you a part of the Child Protection Coalition in Tulsa County?

Ms. Wilson-Guten: The Child Protection Coalition is probably the single most important professional organization that we are a member of.  Very few professional fields possess a network as powerful and unified as child welfare  does.  The system collaboration that exists in CPC is remarkable and effective and the child clients our organizations mutually serve are better off because of it.

CASA Volunteers at Official Swearing In by Judge Hiddle

CASA Volunteers at Official Swearing In by Judge Hiddle

Thank you to all our Tulsa County CASA Volunteers for their hard work and dedication! 

Learn more about Tulsa CASA, including how to volunteer, by visiting their website today! www.tulsacasa.org

The January death of a 5-month-old Tulsa boy has prompted an internal review of two years of cases by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and pending disciplinary actions against some of its employees.

Starting at birth, Arrow Hyden had the attention of medical staff when his mother tested positive for marijuana at the time of delivery. Anna Marie Hyden, 23, admitted months later to a DHS worker she used heroin and drank alcohol up through her last trimester, according to a report from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.

Through the next few months and a total of five contacts, DHS workers ruled referrals for neglect as “unsubstantiated.” These determinations were made even though home visits revealed intoxicated caregivers, a mother admitting she used meth and a failed safety plan.

Arrow was 5 months old when he died on Jan. 16. His mother and her boyfriend, Kevin Lee Crawford, 52, are facing charges of child neglect related to his death. Crawford has additional drug charges.

DHS Director Ed Lake said a review of Arrow’s death began immediately and has since been completed. Facts emerged quickly that resulted in all staff involved in the decisions being removed from their roles, Lake said.

“When notified of Arrow’s death, I was shaken, saddened and disturbed,” Lake said. “Arrow was mistreated and neglected through no fault of his own, and indications are that our staff did not effectively intervene to possibly prevent this tragic outcome. I am also disturbed that, given the comprehensive changes we have made in our child protective services program over the past several years, the facts suggest such poor decisions were made when it came to protecting Arrow’s safety.”

Read the entire Tulsa World story by clicking HERE – published April 29, 2016. 

Read Director Ed Lake’s entire response to the death Arrow Hyden by CLICKING HERE.

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.

 

“In Oklahoma, nearly 30 percent of confirmed child abuse and neglect cases also had reports of domestic violence in the house.

 A mother’s history of substance abuse and an unknown father — or many father figures — ups the chance for abusing a child. Neglect is more likely in families with a disabled child who doesn’t do well in school and has an uninvolved mother.

Advocates have always said these social problems are linked. Now, a University of Oklahoma researcher can say it for certain, backed by statistical data.

Associate professor of human relations Jody Worley has been giving presentations to interested audiences about a study he conducted analyzing Tulsa County cases of substantiated child abuse and neglect.

Last week, he was a featured speaker at an event sponsored by the Child Protection Coalition on the University of Tulsa campus. A panel discussion followed with representatives from several nonprofits working with at-risk families and abused and neglected children.

Only about 20 people attended. Maybe because it was scheduled on Election Day. Or perhaps there were just a lot of PTA meetings and baseball games happening.

But more people should have been there. Here is a bit about what was said.

Risk factors: In the research, Worley collected case-record information from the state Department of Human Services and met with workers in focus groups.

“I wanted to bring data to life, but you can’t do that because data are boring,” he said. “But I realize you see lives through the data. You need data to see the people. … We need a better understanding of the lives behind the data — of lives before the data are collected.”

Risk factors being tracked came largely from the industry-recognized Adverse Childhood Experience study, which is an ongoing, large-scale research project of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

Worley was able to put odds on the risk factors to gauge which ones may be more of a red flag than others. These statistics are specific to the Oklahoma and Tulsa cases.

Researchers, and common sense, say as more stressors pile onto a family, the likelihood of abuse and neglect is higher.

There were some differences between abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.

A mother’s history and behavior factored into each, but it was more of an effect in physical abuse along with the influence of men and a child’s temperament. Factors with a heavy impact on neglect were a mother’s lack of interest and a child’s inability to speak up.

Commonalities in sexual abuse cases were a mother who was molested, a child with mental health disorders or a difficult demeanor and the presence of a stepfather.

This is not painting all stepfathers with a broad brush, but it is put into context with other stressors.

Among the findings that stand out: 27 percent of cases had co-existing domestic violence and a lack of prevention services.

“It is easier to report abuse and neglect than it is to find support before abuse and neglect occurs,” Worley said. “What we do is respond to cases. The system reacts.

“There needs to be a change in the way we think about prevention, children and rights of children. It needs to move from individuals reacting to a community preventing. It needs a shift in public policy to focus on treatment, early intervention and prevention.””

Read the entire Tulsa World article written by Ginnie Graham by clicking HERE, published on April 10, 2016.

Dr. Jody Worley shares his research.

Dr. Jody Worley shares his research.

CPC Panel of Experts (left to right) Kelly Mounce - Indian Health Care Resource Center, Crystal Brill - DVIS, Ginnie Graham (Moderator) - Tulsa World, Rose Turner - Child Abuse Network, Christine Marsh - Family & Children's Services

CPC Panel of Experts (left to right) Kelly Mounce – Indian Health Care Resource Center, Crystal Brill – DVIS, Ginnie Graham (Moderator) – Tulsa World, Rose Turner – Child Abuse Network, Christine Marsh – Family & Children’s Services

 

The Child Protection Coalition is grateful to have the Honorable Doris Fransein, District Judge of the Juvenile Division as a Charter Member. Earlier this month, our staff had the opportunity to ask a few questions about the work she and the Juvenile Court do on behalf of children in our community. Judge Fransein has been the chief judge of the juvenile division since 2005. She was re-elected in 2014 after running unopposed. Her current term expires on January 13, 2019. She received a B.A. from Drury College and a J.D. from the University of Tulsa. Judge Fransein is also an adjunct professor of juvenile law at the University of Tulsa College of Law

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

Judge Fransein: Court resources.  Case loads are heavy with inadequate time to fully address the issues that face the child and his or her family system.  Hopefully, we will have more space within the near future and court resources once the state’s budget crisis is behind us.

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

Judge Fransein: Ensuring that the children’s needs are being met and that they are safe – mentally, physically and emotionally.

CPC: What is one thing you would like the public to know about your job?

Judge Fransein: Our court teams are dedicated and work harder than any other division of the courts.

CPC: Why are you a part of the Child Protection Coalition in Tulsa County?

Judge Fransein: The Court is a very necessary part of the Child Welfare System and ensures that the legal rights of all parties are being met.  This adds a necessary balance to the Coalition.
 

THANK YOU to Judge Fransein and her staff for all they do for children in Tulsa County!

 

District Judge Doris Fransein, chief judge of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, speaks during a deprived-child custody hearing in her courtroom.

District Judge Doris Fransein, chief judge of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, speaks during a deprived-child custody hearing in her courtroom.