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Oklahoma DHS Director Announces Retirement

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director has announced he will retire. According to DHS, Howard Hendrick's last day will be February 29.

Hendrick made the announcement Tuesday during a DHS Commission meeting. Someone from the crowd yelled out "we love you Howard." Hendrick then received a standing ovation from the crowd for the work he has done for the agency.

Hendrick has been in office since July 1, 1998. He's was currently the longest tenured Human Services director in the nation.

Hendrick led the embattled agency through its federal class action lawsuit filed by the child advocacy group Children's Rights in 2008. Children's Rights claimed children in state custody were in danger because the system wasn't doing enough to protect them.

The state has spent millions fighting the lawsuit.

Commissioners who oversee the Oklahoma Department of Human Services voted January 4, 2012 to approve a settlement.

1/4/2012 Related Story: DHS Commission Approves Modified Settlement Agreement

Back in September 2011, Hendrick sat down with News 9 and said he had no plans of leaving the department. At the time, the department was under fire for its handling of several high profile cases including the death of Serenity Deal.

8/15/2011 Related Story: Pottawatomie County District Attorney Blast DHS's Handling Of Serenity Deal Case

10/17/2011 Related Story: More Oklahoma Lawmakers Blast DHS's Handling Of Child Fatality Cases

Hendrick also addressed questions about high case loads and caseworker turnover, policies and procedures, and how his agency handles the increased demand for services in light of our down-turned economy and how budget cuts have factored into it.

9/30/2011 Related Story: DHS Director Answers Questions During News 9 One-On-One Interview

The number of issues being addressed at DHS prompted Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele to name a task force to study the department. Steele said the task force will look at ways the agency can better serve children in the state.

10/19/2011 Related Story: Task Force To Study Oklahoma DHS

DHS doesn't have a replacement in mind as of yet.

Governor Mary Fallin released this statement Tuesday following Hendrick's announcement to step down:

"My thanks go out to Howard Hendrick for his many years of public service, both in the legislature and as director of the Department of Human Services. I wish him the best as he prepares to depart from his post at DHS to pursue new opportunities." – Governor Mary Fallin

More:
7/13/2011 Related Story: Chandler DHS Child Welfare Worker Commits Suicide, Police Continue To Investigate

12/27/2011 Related Story: OKC Man Arrested For Cocaine Works For DHS

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