Foster parent speaks out about DHS lawsuit

Wednesday, February 13th 2008, 10:59 pm
By: News 9

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

A foster parent is speaking out about the lawsuit on the Department of Human Services. He said his six years as a foster parent have left him with a distrust of DHS.

J.T. Shearer said a foster parent needs to be able to work as part of a team with DHS. He said sometimes that relationship can be adversarial.

Over six years, J.T. and his wife have brought 16 foster children into their home. The challenges of raising the kids proved to be just as challenging as dealing with DHS.

He is pleased about the lawsuit filed against the state organization.

"I'm excited," Shearer said. "We need reform and if this is the way to get it that's what I want."

J.T. wants to see more accountability and monitoring within the DHS system. He said one of his foster children went unchecked by a caseworker for years.

"We went almost three years without anyone checking on the child," Shearer said. "We were in court and visiting the case workers on the phone but no one was in our presence."

The lawsuit also claims Oklahoma does not have enough qualified foster parents for the children.  DHS agrees.

"That's true for the 600,000 children that are in foster care across the nation, every state has the same challenge," said George Johnson from DHS

J.T. believes sometimes, through lack of support and lack of efficient case workers, DHS can actually drive people away from becoming a foster parent.

"An adversarial relationship with a care provider is tough; it is almost impossible," Johnson said.

DHS said Oklahoma has a high rate of foster parents adopting foster kids and that's one reason there are fewer foster parents available.