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DHS woes continue to grow more and more

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October 22, 2011

DHS woes continue to grow more and more

Associated Press

NORMAN — The scrutiny and the pressure on the state Department of Human Services continue to grow, which is what should be happening at this point in the agency’s long history. It’s difficult if not impossible to determine at this point what exactly the problems are, but it’s becoming clearer all the time that something’s not right.

Two state House members recently joined the growing list of concerned observers seeking to figure out why child deaths and other child-welfare issues continue to mount. Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, are asking DHS commission members to work with them on the issues.

The two lawmakers’ inquiry follows a similar one launched recently by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, and also comes on the heels of a report showing that DHS staff greatly misrepresented to the public and the commission the number of children abused and neglected while in state custody.

DHS has been maintaining that 99.8 percent of children in out-of-home placements did not experience such mistreatment during 2009, making the state one of 24 exceeding the national standard of 99.68.

But then it was learned, through a report by The Oklahoman, that the state fell below the national standard that year because it failed to report some cases of abuse and neglect in foster homes. DHS officials blamed the failure on acomputer search error.

The agency also did not report instances of children abused or neglected in state shelters or group homes in 2009, a shocking 154 cases that year. DHS officials contend they don’t have to include those figures in the particular report in question, but federal officials say they should.

DHS officials continue to try to defend against the mounting charges they face, some resulting from a class-action lawsuit filed by a national advocacy group, Children’s Rights. That group maintains DHS has one of the nation’s highest rates of abuse and/or neglect in state custody and is suing to force changes in the child-welfare system. DHS leaders counter that Oklahoma has tougher standards regarding abuse and neglect, which makes the state look worse than other states with more lax standards.

For those of us who are just concerned bystanders, this ongoing series of claims and counter-claims is extremely distressing. It’s time to just figure out what the roots of these problems are and get past proving who’s right and who’s wrong.

— The Tulsa World

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Written by dawneworswick

October 25, 2011 at 12:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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