DHS meets goal of getting all children under 2 out of shelters
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
As of the new year, no Oklahoma DHS children’s shelters or DHS-contracted shelters have children under the age of 2 sleeping under their roofs.
Oklahoma child welfare officials announced Wednesday they had met one of their major goals by placing all children under the age of 2 in family-like environments rather than shelters.
The Pinnacle Plan, DHS’ child-welfare improvement plan, was developed in response to federal class-action lawsuit settlement reached last year. The plan sets several deadlines for goals during the next several years.
In the same part of the plan, DHS plans to have all children six and under out of shelters by June 30, and all children under 13 years old out of shelters by June 30, 2014, according to the agency’s Pinnacle Plan.
“This was a very important goal for our state to achieve not only for the Pinnacle Plan — it’s the right thing to do for young children,” said Deborah Smith, Director of OKDHS Child Welfare Services. “I am very proud of our child welfare staff. Achieving this goal has taken a lot of teamwork and I commend everyone for their efforts.”
As part of reaching the goal, DHS has been expanding their foster-parent programs — recruiting many new foster parents across the state who can take children into their homes.
Since July 1, 930 new foster parents have joined DHS foster parent ranks, according to DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell.
To reach the next June 30 deadline, DHS needs to recruit 2,000 new foster families, according to the release.
Exceptions are allowed to the DHS rule of keeping children under two out of shelters. Those exceptions include medically fragile children who need 24-hour supervision, large sibling groups of four or more and teen moms with infants.
Goals already reached in the Pinnacle Plan include increasing the reimbursement rates for foster parents, increasing salaries for child welfare workers and restructuring the DHS’ Child Welfare Division.