Sunday, March 28, 2010

DHS Audit Recommendations Implementation Showing Results, House Committee Members Told

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 24, 2010) —Officials with the Department of Human Services today presented evidence to a House committee of progress made by the agency since the passage of legislation implementing recommendations from a groundbreaking audit of the department.

House Bill 1734, authored by Rep. Ron Peters, was signed into law last year. The legislation implemented many of the recommendations of an audit of the Department of Human Services, including a requirement that law enforcement consult with DHS before removing a child; the creation of a passport program to allow information about a child’s physical and behavioral health and educational needs to be available electronically; implementation of a phase-out of public shelters; establishment of a centralized statewide hotline for all reports of abuse and neglect of children; and a reorganization of the department offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma Counties.

Human Services officials testified today to the Children’s Services Oversight Committee that progress has been made in all of those areas of state-based care.

Some of the significant progress seen at DHS includes:

  • Record level of adoptions in the last two federal fiscal years and an all-time high finalized adoptions for a state fiscal year
  • Reduction of over 3,700 children in out-of-home care since July 2007
  • Worker retention continues to increase
  • Lowest number of children per responsible worker in years
  • Lowest average daily shelter population in years
  • Established 449 agreements with law enforcement agencies for joint response
  • Oklahoma County Human Service Center reorganized in Oct. 2009
  • Tulsa County Human Service Center was reorganized in May, 2009
  • Round-the-clock centralized hotline roll-out began in Nov. 2009 and is expected to extend statewide by the end of 2010.
  • Official development of a medical health passport (which is an accessible and comprehensive medical and educational record for all children placed in out-of-home care through DHS) began in Feb. 2010

"It is clear from today’s presentation that much progress has been seen at the department, and I was assured that efforts will continue as we seek to further reduce the number of children coming into state care," said Peters, R-Tulsa, and chairman of the House Human Services Committee. "There were many examples given about DHS working directly with law enforcement and community-based services to help keep children in their home or with relatives and out of state shelters. I commend DHS officials for their hard work, and their continued efforts."
Staff retention has increased as fewer children are taken into care, which means social workers are able to spend more time on the most severe cases of child abuse in the state.

Another area of success has been a reduction in the number of children in the state shelters in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

In June 2009, the Pauline Mayer shelter in Oklahoma City housed 46 children in state care and the Laura Dester shelter in Tulsa housed 52 children. As of last month, the Pauline Mayer shelter population was reduced to 13 children and there were 27 children living at the Laura Dester shelter.

"The audit served as a blueprint of changes needed in the department to ensure our children’s ongoing safety, both inside and outside their home. We were told today that the implementation of that blueprint has been successful," said Peters. "But, there is still more work to do and this will continue to be an ongoing process as we adjust state law based on the results seen at the department."
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