OKC DHS Children's Shelter In Danger Of Closing - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

OKC DHS Children's Shelter In Danger Of Closing

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Overcrowding in Oklahoma City's youth shelter could force the Department of Human Services to close the doors. Now shelter officials are reaching out for help as they try to deal with the growing number of kids in need.

Too many children are staying in the Department of Human Services Children's shelter and that has put the entire operation at risk. DHS official confirmed that the shelter was cited by a state fire inspector.

"The overcrowding is a problem," said DHS Spokeswoman Sheree Powell. "It's an issue that we are very concerned about because we are concerned about the safety of our children."

Now the shelter's license is in jeopardy. They are currently allowed to house 48 children inside the Oklahoma City location but those who run the shelter say they often see numbers above the limit. However, while DHS acknowledges the overcrowding, they say the circumstances around the issue are important to look at.

Powell explained that the many children come through the shelter's doors but by the evening, many of the kids are placed into homes, which in turn brings the number of children at the shelter back down to regulation numbers.

"We use this place as a place where children can be evaluated, where they can get their medical need met. Many times children come in and they've never seen a doctor."

Powell added that the shelter provides a place for children to go after they are pulled out of a dangerous situation. She said social workers cannot do all that work in their cars. They also cannot turn away children in need.

The shelter may now be in danger after the state fire inspector's citation. The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, which oversees the shelter's certification released a statement to News 9:

"When children are removed from their homes, they deserve to be placed in a safe environment.  The Pauline E. Mayer Shelter has a history of overcrowding which puts children at risk.  The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth (OCCY) was unable to get a concrete diversion plan from the OKDHS to ensure that the facility would remain under their licensed capacity of 48.  Due to the lack of a clear process that would keep the population under 48 children, OCCY initiated revocation of the shelter's certification on February 24, 2012.  We are encouraged that our actions as well as the State Fire Marshal's report will bring an immediate resolution in keeping children safe."

"We're working with OCCY trying to explain the issue surrounding why out number are so high be we really need them to work with us as well because we're doing everything possible to get these children placed," Powell responded. "Our agency is between a rock and a hard place. When we are mandated to remove children from dangerous situations, we have to have a safe place for them to go."

Officials at the shelter said the average stay for a child is about 10 days before they are placed in a home. DHS said they need more foster families in Oklahoma, which would be the only way to drastically reduce the number of children who need to stay at the shelter.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you can get more information at http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/foster

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