Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fallin Names Former Oklahoma First Assistant AG as Special Adviser on Child Welfare and Pinnacle Plan Implementation

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced she has named Tom Bates, who was a longtime assistant in the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, as her special adviser on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation.

Bates served 15 years in the attorney general’s office, mostly recently from 2012-14 as first assistant to Attorney General Scott Pruitt. His responsibilities included overseeing the more than 90 civil and criminal attorneys and 40 agents employed by the attorney general's office.

As the governor’s special adviser, Bates will primarily be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Pinnacle Plan, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ (DHS) ongoing effort to reform the state's child welfare operations.

“Tom is knowledgeable about the Pinnacle Plan and the legal process surrounding the plan,” said Fallin. “I look forward to having his expertise on this priority issue and to ensure the Pinnacle Plan is being implemented effectively.”

Bates joined the attorney general's office in 1999. While there, he litigated and prosecuted a number of high profile cases. He served the office as Don't Call Registry administrator, lead assistant attorney general for consumer protection litigation, chief of the multicounty grand jury unit, chief of the public protection unit, and as first assistant.

"Having worked with Tom in his previous capacity in the attorney general's office, I am excited that he will be working with us on the Pinnacle Plan,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We appreciate Governor Fallin selecting high-quality appointments to fill the role of special adviser and we know Tom will bring valuable perspective and experience to our efforts."

A native Oklahoman, Bates graduated from U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, and earned a bachelor’s degree and his juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University.

Bates is an active member of Putnam City United Methodist Church and has served the congregation in a variety of leadership roles. He is a graduate of Leadership Bethany and has served on the board of directors for the Bethany Chamber of Commerce. He is also a graduate of the Oklahoma Bar Association's leadership academy and Leadership Oklahoma Class 28.

He and his wife, Kellye, have been married for 26 years. They have two sons, Andy and Billy, who are both students at the University of Central Oklahoma.

More about the Pinnacle Plan

The Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan is a five-year improvement plan for the state’s foster care system. The plan was developed in 2012 as a result of a settlement agreement in a class-action, civil rights lawsuit. DHS agreed to make improvements in several key areas of the foster care system including increasing the recruitment of foster homes, reducing the use of emergency shelters, and lowering workloads for child welfare specialists.

In recent months, DHS has announced the closing of its two state-run emergency children’s shelters, child welfare workers have greatly reduced the number of backlog cases, and the department and its contract foster care agencies have recruited hundreds of new foster homes. DHS has increased in-home services to families in an effort to keep children out of state custody and worked to help children reunite with their families or reach adoption faster. Thanks to these efforts, the numbers of children in care has been steadily dropping which is positively impacting all the goals in the Pinnacle Plan.

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