DHS commission looks at draft of planned improvements
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY - The first draft of the improvement plan for Oklahoma's child welfare system includes overhauling the staff structure, increasing the number and support of foster homes and lowering caseloads.
The plan is required under a settlement agreement to be submitted to a three-person independent monitoring panel on Friday.
Deborah Smith, director of the children and family services division, gave a preview of the plan Tuesday to the agency's oversight commission.
She said the monitors have had input, along with lawmakers and advocates.
"We are on target to submit it timely," Smith said.
The staff named the reform document the Pinnacle Plan to reflect reaching the highest possible standards.
The plan has seven key points that will be tied to the settlement agreement, which mandates improvements in 15 areas of child welfare.
Details of the improvement plan will be released Friday.
Those details include the number of foster families to recruit, how much caseloads will be decreased, method of implementation and costs of each point.
The monitors have 15 days to make comments and DHS is allowed time for a review and have modifications.
"We are calling this our first submission," Smith said. "We still have some work to do to get to a final document."
After the plan is approved, the monitors and staff will work on how the data will be collected and the baselines to use for judging progress.
The agreement was reached in January and approved by U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in February. The federal class-action lawsuit was filed in 2008 by the nonprofit Children's Rights, based in New York.
DHS has spent about $7 million defending the lawsuit, and attorney fees and costs have not yet been determined.
Read more on this story in Wednesday's Tulsa World.