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Oklahoma DHS Reports New Caseload Allegations Are False

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A children's advocacy group says workers are juggling too many cases and children are falling through the cracks. DHS says it not only monitors caseloads, but leads the nation when it comes to tracking them. A children's advocacy group says workers are juggling too many cases and children are falling through the cracks. DHS says it not only monitors caseloads, but leads the nation when it comes to tracking them.

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Oklahoma's child welfare system comes out swinging -- The Department of Human Services reports allegations it doesn't know how many children workers are supervising is wrong. 

DHS says it not only monitors caseloads, but leads the nation when it comes to tracking them. 

3/24/2010  Related Story: New Accusations Filed Just As Oklahoma DHS Reports Progress

When a parent or guardian puts a child in danger, it's a DHS caseworker who's supposed to make sure that little one is safe. A children's advocacy group, suing DHS, says workers are juggling too many cases and children are falling through the cracks. 

But DHS attorneys say Oklahoma is one of only seven states with a federally-approved tracking system.

The agency's director says that system proves workers are only dealing with 16 to 20 children at a time. That's much lower than the plaintiff's attorneys claim.

They filed court records earlier this week that cite DHS reported one caseworker was assigned 31 children, when the worker says she was really responsible for 60.

DHS claims those numbers are outdated and misleading. They wouldn't respond to the specific allegation.

But a DHS attorney told The News On 6 the tracking program is a "sophisticated system." It doesn't just look at case numbers, but the amount of work involved, to make sure the workload is appropriate.

DHS also cites a 2005 federal report that says Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states that can prove 90 percent of the children in foster homes or shelters receive monthly visits from caseworkers.

One of the children suing DHS, "GC", tells a different story.

In 2005, the same year as the report, her foster mother was accused of beating her with a leather strap, whipping her with a wooden spoon and not taking her to counseling, despite her history of sexual abuse.

An expert's review of GC's file, shows "a crisis move was finally made due to chaos and charges of abuse" 13 months later.

Over those 13 months, DHS came to GC's home a dozen times, but according to the report, caseworkers never met with the girl privately. 

DHS and its attorneys say the agency has already made changes. Now it ranks in the top five for per capita adoptions. And the children adopted out of foster care outnumber those who remain in the system.

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