NAACP To File Class Action Lawsuit Against DHS Over Child Safety Allegations
OKLAHOMA CITY - The NAACP says they will be working with a local attorney to file a class action lawsuit against the Department of Human Services. They say they represent dozens of families and DHS caseworkers.
The plaintiffs in the case are seeking monetary damages and change in the system, they say, not only fails to protect children but also puts them in harm’s way.
The DHS caseworkers who told News 9 in a 2017 investigation about high caseloads and the danger that puts kids in, will be part of the lawsuit. As will Dahn Gregg who spoke to News 9 the day she was fired after she raised concerns about dangerous foster homes.
“As workers, they should be able to go and say this is a problem, and someone should listen to them and take care of it,” said Gregg. “These are children, we are responsible for the safety of these children.”
Gregg's attorney Rachel Bussett says she has also heard from several families whose children were harmed while in DHS care.
The NAACP says they also have had many families reach out to them saying the same thing.
“We have family after family with the same problem, and you can’t have the same problem with different families that have no connection,” said Dana Brockway with the Oklahoma City branch of the NAACP.
In a statement DHS said, “We have met with Oklahoma City NAACP representatives numerous times over the past year regarding these allegations. Thorough reviews of the few cases presented to us found no evidence of improprieties. In fact, the courts have been involved in each of these matters and have issued the orders governing the Department’s ongoing efforts to work with those families and the families’ responsibilities for regaining custody of their children. We are quite confident our actions have been justifiable, in the best interests of the children involved, and these allegations are without merit.”
Brockway and Bussett, however, say they are also taking their concerns to state lawmakers and have scheduled a meeting with Governor Stitt.
“Unless he makes a systemic change in DHS from top to bottom a lawsuit can’t be avoided at this point,” said Bussett. “Because we have been shaking the trees for two years and they aren’t listening.”
Bussett says the lawsuit should be filed by the end of the month.