Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DHS Officials Comment on Approval of the Child Welfare Pinnacle Plan

Oklahoma City—The Oklahoma Department of Human Services received endorsement today from outside child welfare experts on a bold improvement plan for its child welfare system.

The plan, referred to as the “Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan” is part of a settlement agreement reached in January 2012 in the D.G. vs. Yarbrough class action, civil rights lawsuit. OKDHS agreed in the settlement to make targeted performance improvements related to the way it cares for children in foster care. As part of the settlement agreement, three out-of-state child welfare experts (referred to as co-neutrals) were selected to oversee the state’s improvements. 

“We are pleased to have received endorsement of this plan which outlines very ambitious goals for the agency to achieve over the next five years,” said Preston Doerflinger, Interim Director of OKDHS. “OKDHS is committed to the vulnerable children of this state and to the successful implementation of this plan.”

The plan was first submitted on Mar. 30 to the co-neutrals and since that time the monitors have worked with OKDHS officials and plaintiffs to refine the plan and ensure the initiatives outlined will achieve needed improvements in the state’s foster care system.

“To demonstrate our commitment, we have already implemented some of the initiatives in the plan such as the first of several increases to reimbursements for foster parents and salaries for child welfare specialists,” said Doerflinger. “We have also been working with the co-neutrals on performance targets and baselines which will measure our successful implementation of this plan as we move forward.”

“This is an exciting time for all of us who work in child welfare,” said Deborah Smith, Director of OKDHS Child Welfare Services. “The Pinnacle Plan’s name reflects our goals--to reach the highest point possible in our child welfare program. This plan is the result of a lot of hard work and collaboration by people who are very committed to improving our system that protects abused and neglected children."

"This is an exciting time of great reform at DHS," said Wes Lane, Chairman of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services. "Rarely before in state history have we seen so many people all pulling the same wagon in the same direction. To our legislators, our Attorney General, our Governor and to the many DHS staff who have worked tirelessly with the Co-Neutrals to put this plan together - the Human Services Commission says a hearty thank you! With this continued unity of purpose, we will be successful and our children the better for it."

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