Report: Oklahoma DHS Shows Improvements, But Still Failing To Protect Children

Wednesday, January 2nd 2019, 5:19 pm

The new report says DHS shows improvement in reforming the state's foster care system. However, the Co-Neutral report also says DHS is still failing in a number of areas, including protecting children in their care. 

The reports are issued every six months as part of settlement of a federal lawsuit. The Co-Neutrals are charged with overseeing reforms mandated in the settlement.

The report this summer was not good for DHS, saying the agency failed to make "good faith efforts" to protect children in nine specific areas.

Watch: Oklahoma DHS Defends Its Foster Program After Scathing Report

The new report released on New Year’s Eve says the agency improved in four of those areas. The report reads DHS is showing “market improvement” over the previous period.

“We’re very encouraged and excited about the progress and we’re looking forward to the next commentary that we think will be even better,” said Sheree Powell, the Director of Communications for Oklahoma Department of Human Services. 

Powell says the data used in this report was compiled through June of 2018, and their data shows more improvement over the past six months.

But Marcia Lowrey, the lead attorney on the lawsuit, points out the five of nine areas where DHS did not show a “good faith effort.”

“I think it’s pretty scary the way the maltreatment in care continues to be very high and that the state has not even begun to plan on how they are going to deal with special needs kids,” she told News 9.

The report also says children remained in unsafe foster homes even when the agency had information they should have been removed.  And DHS actually "lost ground" when it comes to reducing worker caseloads.

The concerns are the same ones brought to News 9’s attention by former and current employees in a series of investigations.

See: 9 Investigates: DHS Workers Blow Whistle On Child Protective Services

“We have homes where we have people with mental health issues, we have homes where people have a drug history, anger issues, assaults and batteries,” listed former DHS employee Dhan Gregg. “Sexual perpetrators that have access to the home.”

 This is the 11th report by the Co-Neutrals.  

“I think there's some really fundamental problems and I don't know why DHS has not taken hold of some of these issues,” said Lowrey. 

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