Friday, September 28, 2012

OKDHS Child Welfare Services Director receives Spero Award

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Deborah G. Smith, Director of Child Welfare Services for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), is the recipient of the Spero Award from the Oklahoma Lawyers for Children (OLFC). Smith received the award on Sept. 15, 2012 at the OLFC "Evening of Hope" awards gala and fundraiser held at Science Museum Oklahoma (SMO).

Spero is a Latin word meaning 'hope.'  While OLFC has recognized exceptional individuals and companies for their service to children, the Spero Award has only been awarded one other time.

"The OLFC Board of Directors is quite judicious about presenting awards," says Tsinena Thompson, OLFC President and Chief Executive Officer. "Deb was chosen for this award because of what can only be described as Herculean efforts and dedication during the development of the Pinnacle Plan, which OLFC believes to be the single most important reformation to child welfare in Oklahoma history."

The Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan is the improvement plan for child welfare services. OKDHS settled a class action, civil rights lawsuit against its foster care system by agreeing to make improvements in targeted areas of the state's child welfare system. As part of this settlement agreement, OKDHS worked with its commission members and representatives from the Governor's Office, legislature, and key stakeholders in developing the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan to guide the agency in the years ahead as it works to make improvements in child welfare services.

Thompson says the implementation of the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan is a "monumental undertaking" and that OLFC wanted to acknowledge Smith's commitment to the children of Oklahoma by presenting her with the Spero Award.

"I am honored to have received the Spero Award and truly value the strong partnership we have with Oklahoma Lawyers for Children," says Smith. "The Pinnacle Plan provides hope to Oklahomans that we can and will improve our child welfare system. My appreciation goes out to all of the foster parents, OKDHS staff, OKDHS commissioners, legislators, the Governor's Office, youth alumni, Commissioner Terri White, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the Post Adjudication Review Board (PARB), tribes, and community stakeholders who contributed their ideas and expectations for the plan. We could not have created such an ambitious plan without their input, support, and commitment to change."

The OLFC is the only non-profit organization in Oklahoma dedicated to providing legal services to abused, neglected and deprived children in Oklahoma County. Qualified attorneys work with the Juvenile Defender's Office to represent children - free of charge - in the Juvenile Division of the Oklahoma County District Court. OLFC provides representation of children in the custody of OKDHS in all stages of deprived hearings such as guardianship, adoption, name changes, kinship home studies, assessments of alternate caregivers, and translators.

For more information about OLFC, contact their office at (405) 232-4453.

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