News 9 Talks To New Commissioner About Future Of DHS

Monday, November 14th 2011, 6:37 pm
By: News 9

What does the future hold for DHS, now that Commissioners are taking a closer look at their policies and procedures?

We sat down with newly appointed Commissioner Wes Lane. He is in the process of forming a committee to look into all the recent death cases involving kids in state custody.

Lane said the overall goal is to restore the public's trust.

"Our focus is not to solve a mystery," said Lane. "Our focus is to examine what are the policies, rules and regulations under which DHS is touching these kids."

Lane spent years as a juvenile prosecutor and as a DA for Oklahoma county. So he is all too familiar with how DHS works.

"You may get it right a thousand times," said Lane. "But all it takes is one time to not get it right, and that's when it all breaks loose and people get very upset."

In 2010, Oklahoma was ranked among the five worst states for reported child abuse and neglect deaths based on a report by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths. The five states are:

1. Florida

2. Nebraska

3. New Mexico

4. Tennessee

5. Oklahoma

The report was based on information from a 2008 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"It is almost impossible to predict murder," said Lane. "But on the other hand, sometimes we can get some strong clues as to is this a hot spot."

Recent child death cases like the one involving 5-year-old Serenity Deal have thrust the issue back into the spotlight. But Lane says it's often hard to balance and protect the rights of children, family members and parents.

"And then on the other hand, how do you protect the child from an utterly incompetent and even sometimes dangerous parent?" Lane said.

But Lane said it is going to take more than a quick fix or new law to make an impact on the lives of Oklahoma children in DHS custody.

"Changing the Band Aid every now and again isn't going to heal the wound," Lane said.

So far, Lane and his committee have met twice since its inception. And he is in the process of recruiting several more people to serve on it.

So far Lane has recruited a district judge, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Deputy Superintendent from the Oklahoma City public schools. He hopes to form a group of between 15 and 20 individuals who will be looking at 18 child deaths that have occurred over the last year.