Oklahoma DHS Receives New Requirements To Improve Agency

Monday, November 17th 2014, 7:07 pm
By: News 9

The state's child welfare system gets more marching orders to better protect kids.

OKDHS has been trying to fix problems exposed in a federal class action lawsuit. Now, the agency has new requirements to ensure it hits the goals outlined in the Pinnacle Plan.

The Pinnacle Plan was a result of the class action lawsuit settlement. A remedial order was issued Nov. 14 by the three Co-Neutrals, the experts appointed by the court to strengthen DHS.

The order came after the Co-Neutrals' report last month that said DHS still was not improving in certain areas.

The remedial order breaks down new requirements into three areas: lack of foster homes, high caseloads and the backlog in abuse investigations. For foster homes, DHS must immediately identify why it can't get a big enough pool of foster parents, what barriers are in the way and how to knock those barriers down.

DHS must submit a plan to the Co-Neutrals by Jan. 10, 2015, showing timeframes to achieve its foster home goal for 2015.

To cut down on the high caseloads for DHS caseworkers, DHS must now prepare weekly reports for every district office detailing things like a list of caseworkers and their caseloads, how many caseworkers are needed to meet the caseload goal and how many vacant positions there are currently.

DHS must also identify which of its districts have the highest needs in terms of caseloads, vacancies and turnover. By Dec. 15, 2014, DHS must come up with a specific plan to reduce the backlog of overdue child abuse and neglect investigations.

According to the remedial order, DHS must figure out why it cannot complete investigations within the required 60-day timeframe and how the agency can fix that problem to be in compliance.

The order said DHS director, Ed Lake, must also appoint three senior staffers who constantly track progress or setbacks with foster homes, caseloads and the backlog for child abuse and neglect investigations.

DHS released this statement about the remedial order:

"DHS recognizes the importance of the objectives addressed in the remedial order and will work to implement these specific processes which we also believe will be helpful to our efforts. For almost two and a half years DHS has been working diligently to achieve progress with its Pinnacle Plan. The agency welcomes the experience and input of the Co-Neutrals and appreciates their guidance to help DHS progress in its efforts to recruit foster homes and reduce worker caseloads."