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.

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 driveway onto the property of Sand Springs Home is lined with mature trees, and in the summer is green as far as the eye can see. It has the feel of driving into a park or resort. A visitor will see pristine grounds, houses, and a huge activity center. At once, a feeling of calm is palpable. Social Worker Courtney Noah calls it, “The most wonderful place in the world to work.”

Recently, CPC staff received a tour of the Sand Springs Children’s Home and learned the history of the charity. Staff spoke with Executive Director, Jason Charles, about the home and his role. Here is what he shared:

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

One of our challenges is public knowledge and support.  Sand Springs Home is funded by the Charles Page Trust, so we have not traditionally done fund raising or public awareness activities.  We need more people in the area to know about our services and how they can get involved.  This would help increase our support and volunteer base, as well as help people in the community know the types of kids/families that we serve so that they will refer them to us.

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

Sand Springs Home operates 2 charities.  Sand Springs Children’s Home accepts children who are in the foster care system in Oklahoma.  We focus mostly on teenagers and sibling groups.  We provide long term care for kids in a family setting.  We have 2 homes on campus which can house 8-10 kids each.  Sand Springs Home builds an individual plan for each child and works to meet their unique needs.  All of the children here attend public school and are encouraged to be involved in extra-curricular activities.  Our goal is to provide a home that allows kids to have a sense of normalcy and involvement in their school and community.  We also have apartments on campus for youth who have completed high school and need continued support.  At this time, we have 10 youth in college in our Independent Living program.

Our other charity is the Charles Page Family Village.  This is a housing and support program for single mothers and their children.  We have 108 duplex-style houses for families on our property.  Many of these families are homeless prior to coming to our program.  Length of stay in the Family Village varies depending on the needs of the family.  Some mothers can stay until their youngest child graduates from high school.  While families are here, they have access to our Activity Center, which provides after school programming for school aged children.

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

That we serve kids in the DHS foster system at no charge to the state.  Our contract is a no-pay contract, so the services we provide are entirely privately funded.

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

We have enjoyed being a part of the Child Protection Coalition.  We have formed positive relationships with other agencies in our community and we are more involved and aware of issues related to the child care system because of our involvement.

To learn more about this amazing organization and the history behind Charles Page’s vision for children and the Sand Springs community, visit the Sand Springs Home website: www.sandspringshome.com

The Sand Springs Home Activity Center includes a game room, full gym, racquetball court, movie theater, dining room, and study hall.  Staff at the SSHAC lead kids in activities promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and physical health.

The Sand Springs Home Activity Center includes a game room, full gym, racquetball court, movie theater, dining room, and study hall. Staff at the SSHAC lead kids in activities promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and physical health.

“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.

The Parent Child Center of Tulsa provides a broad range of child abuse and neglect prevention services for children ages 0 – 12 who are at risk for or who have suffered some of the most adverse and traumatic experiences of early childhood.  PCCT offers three levels of prevention services:  Community Education, Family Support Services and Therapeutic Services.

Recently CPC staff had the opportunity to gather the insights of the PCCT Executive Director, Desiree Doherty. Here’s what she shared:

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

It sometimes feels daunting to be working to better protect children in a state with high rates of every bad thing we know to be harmful to children. We are also challenged by the fact that many parts of the child protection system face enormous pressures (large caseloads, billing constraints, budget cuts, productivity ratios, bureaucracy, etc.). Couple that with unrelenting day to day exposure to complex trauma, and you have a system that doesn’t always have the capacity it needs (time, energy, right focus on greatest effectiveness) to best help families get what they need in order to create safety for children.

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

It sounds trite to use that phrase, “…making a difference one (fill in the blank) at a time.”  But that”s exactly how an organization like Parent Child Center can accomplish such positive impacts in the face of such great need.  By repairing parent/child relationship and creating safe attachment for one child and one caregiver at a time.  What we accomplish is pretty amazing, mostly because of the powerful ripple effect into the future that is created when one more child is safe and healthy cognitively, physically and social-emotionally. Then he or she has the best chance to grow and learn and become a healthy and productive adult and a safe parent themselves one day…instead of the alternative.  So we view our impact in terms of the strength, health and safety of the parent/child relationship and what that means to the child’s life trajectory.

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

It’s all about relationship, at every level.

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

Because Parent Child Center has a strategic vision for contributing to and influencing quality improvements in key systems that protect children. None of us working alone can adequately address the extensive and complicated needs of vulnerable children and parents. I see the Coalition as the place to help forge relationship with other professionals in order to better understand, communicate, support and respond more constructively to and with each other and the families we are all serving.  I remember when the Coalition was first formed, to address the stuff that we hadn’t been able to figure out in isolation. The easy stuff was already being taken care of.  So we created a table where we come together to work on the tough stuff.  Who does that?!  Well, all of us at the table do that because alone we will never “move the needle” on child abuse and neglect and all it’s consequences…which concern and cost us all as a community.

CLICK HERE to read an interview with Desiree Doherty published by the Tulsa World on June 21, 2016 covering the status of Oklahoma in the 2016 Kids Count Data.

Members of the PCCT team & Parent Promise with Governor Fallin (pink, center) at the capitol in 2016. Desiree Doherty pictured on back row in light blue.

Members of the PCCT team & Parent Promise with Governor Fallin (pink, center) at the capitol in 2016. Desiree Doherty pictured on back row in light blue.

“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


Based on questions Child Protection Coalition members had in 2014 regarding predictive factors of child abuse in Tulsa County, the CPC contracted with Dr. Jody Worley of the University of Oklahoma to conduct a research study. Is there a Predictive Model of Child Abuse and Neglect? addresses the most salient factors associated with child maltreatment in Tulsa County. Click HERE to read the Executive Summary of the study.

The research study was underwritten by the Child Protection Coalition.  Dr. Worley believes this is the most in-depth study performed to date in the United States comparing specific predictors to specific types of child maltreatment – neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Click HERE to view the study presentation.


Child Trauma in State Spotlight

Oklahoma is one of three sites participating in the California-based Chadwick Trauma-Informed Systems Project.

Each site is testing new ways to identify effective trauma treatments and develop trauma service delivery models within the child welfare system.

The Chadwick team recently reported on their assessment of Oklahoma’s trauma treatment and service delivery.  Their report is here.

The team’s powerpoint presentation, “Trauma-informed Child Welfare in Oklahoma,” summarizing the assessment and responseis here.


Trauma-Informed Systems Experts to Spotlight State’s Plan

Charles Wilson

Oklahoma is one of three laboratory sites participating in the California-based Chadwick Trauma-Informed Systems Project.  Each site is developing and testing new ways to organize child welfare services into a wider trauma-informed service delivery environment.

The goal of the state’s assessment is to identify effective treatments and develop delivery models for victims of child abuse and neglect.

Lessons learned in Oklahoma are already spreading across the nation.

Alison Hendricks

Chadwick representatives involved in Oklahoma’s trauma assessment, Charles Wilson, MSSW, and Alison Hendricks, LCSW, will discuss findings and the state plan in Tulsa Oct. 20 and Oklahoma City Oct. 21.


Chadwick Trauma-Informed Systems Project  [PDF]

For more information please contact us.