Oklahoma Lawmaker Says DHS Opposed To Reforming Plan

Tuesday, May 15th 2012, 7:35 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

There is a lot of talk at the Capitol about reforming DHS, but some say the agency isn't as receptive to those changes as they would have us think and they're even playing dirty to keep those reforms from happening.

5/14/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma House Members Announce Plan To Reform DHS

"The reason we're in this process right now is because children were dying," said Amber England the policy director for Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

England with Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy says she spends every day at the Capitol making sure those reforms stay on track. Specifically HB2736 that would outsource many services of the Oklahoma's foster care system.

An idea, the bill's author says DHS is highly opposed to.

"They're trying to kill the bill for any means, by any means, possible," said Rep. Ron Peters (R).

Representative Peters says DHS tried to rewrite the bill, stripping it of all the reforms. When that didn't work, he says the agency told supporters the bill doesn't comply with the recent lawsuit settlement and that it would cost almost $10 million.

Both Peters and England say that's untrue.

"It's the resistance to change, it's the resistance to reform that's driving this misinformation," said Rep. Peters.

But DHS spokesperson Sherry Powell agues the agency is not against reform. But is concerned the changes in this bill would cost too much money and add too many responsibilities beyond what is required in the settlement.

"It's adding an additional requirement than what was agreed on in the Pinnacle Plan it's also increasing the first year cost," Powell said.

This legislation is part of the reforms a House work group announced on Monday. The head of that group says so far DHS has not been causing any problems with the other legislation. But other lawmakers I talked to say this is pretty typical of their experience in dealing with DHS.

HB 2736 passed out of committee Tuesday morning. The full house still has to vote on it.