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Big changes could be coming to DHS supposedly

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Big changes could be coming to DHS

Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Posted: 10/19/2011

Lawmakers are taking steps to aggressively reform the Oklahoma Department of Human Services after several high profile cases of deaths and child abuse over the past decade.

On Wednesday, lawmakers and DHS officials came together to announce a strategy to change the system.

“This is not about pointing fingers, or casting blame. We’ve done that. And it’s time to move forward,” said Speaker of the House Kris Steele (R- Shawnee).

Over the past decade, DHS reports 129 children have died while in state care, as numerous other cases of child abuse and neglect have come to light.

“I’m sorry for everything that our agency has been associated with, in the lives of our own neighbors and friends,” said Brad Yarbrough, incoming chairman
of the Commission of Human Services.

Lawmakers unveiled a strategy to reform DHS from the bottom up, focusing on the agency’s structure, staffing and resources. The bi-partisan task force of five lawmakers says some personnel may need to be shuffled around to provide more support for case workers.

“There’s nothing simple about this, there’s nothing easy about it. Our goal is to dig into details like they’ve never been dug into,” said Representative Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), who is leading the task force.

Three years ago, an audit of DHS made recommendations for changes.Despite coming under fire from critics, officials say some progress was made. They say this time there will be major changes.

“You sense that everyone is in the same canoe, paddling to the same objective. Instead of taking their oars and swinging at each other,” Yarbrough said.

The task force will interview case workers and review policies and procedures. Meanwhile families who have lost children while in the care of DHS say they want to be a part of the reform process.

“The worker we had was wonderful,” said Sheri Heath, whose family lost two-year-old Kelsey Briggs while she was under the watch of DHS. “But she had 30 other children in our county. We had her available 24/7, could call her anytime we needed. But so could the other 30 children,”

Heath says the changes need to start with better communication.

“So trained workers can see the red flags. Our workers didn’t see that. There wasn’t ever a red flag risen.”

Lawmakers say budget issues will present a big challenge as they try to implement changes to the DHS system. And although they’d like to move fast–

“We want to move with all do haste, but not in a way that’s reckless,” Nelson said.

Lawmakers have asked all nine DHS commissioners to meet with them on Friday to discuss changes to the system.

Read more: http://www.kjrh.com/dpp/news/state/Task-force-to-study,-recommend-change-at-Okla.-DHS#ixzz1bkhNi8Lv

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Written by dawneworswick

October 25, 2011 at 1:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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