The Edmond Sun

Features

January 8, 2013

Department of Human Services puts new plan in place for children

EDMOND — It has been said that one of the measures that can be used to judge a society is the way it treats its most vulnerable members. And the treatment that the state of Oklahoma has given to vulnerable children that have been entrusted to the care of the state Department of Human Services has been a source of controversy in recent years and was the subject of a federal lawsuit that alleged DHS had failed to adequately care for those children.

Deborah Smith is the director of the Children Services Division of DHS, and she recently gave a presentation at the Oklahoma District Attorney Council’s Office in Oklahoma City about the plan that is being implemented to improve the state’s child welfare system.

That plan, which is known as the “Pinnacle Plan,” was entered into by DHS as part of the settlement the department reached to end the federal lawsuit. July 1 of last year was the date the program was officially put in place, and it had previously been submitted to and approved by two out-of-state child care experts known as the “co-neutrals” who had to approve it in accordance with the settlement that had been agreed upon.

Smith, who has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma, explained the DHS division that she now heads was created as part of that plan. The plan also created what is known as the “Child Welfare Services executive team,” which oversees 27 “Oklahoma District Directors” throughout the state, and Smith explained that each of those directors will be part of a management team that includes seven front-line employees that are assigned to Child Protective Services, Family Centered Services, and Permanency Planning. The team also includes five deputy directors.

Those office holders’ duties will include traveling to the individual county DHS offices that are in their districts to ensure that the services being provided to children are adequate. Smith explained that over the next several months all of the DHS staff who work with children will receive training and support that will allow them to improve the services that are provided.

In addition, the plan authorized the creation and funding for 100 new child welfare specialist positions, and also increased the salary of those employees who are already employed as child welfare workers. A “competency assessment” has been performed on those  new employees before they were assigned a caseload, and it is planned that in time caseloads of each child welfare employee will decrease.

Smith said that ensuring the safety of children is the paramount concern. The department had been criticized for the small number of foster homes and the use of child shelters to house children who had been placed in its custody, and Smith reported that there has been an increase of 116 family foster homes that provide care for some of those children since July of last year. The number of children in shelters has decreased as well.

The monthly stipends received by foster families for the care that they provide to children has been increased in accordance with the plan. Pursuant to the plan, the department issued a “Request for Proposal” for a public-private partnership to encourage the development of foster homes. Smith said that she is committed to insuring that the children entrusted to the department’s care are adequately cared for, and also to working with the district attorneys, courts, law enforcement officials and other community partners   who are part of the Oklahoma child welfare system.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.

1
Text Only
Features
  • 1,000th baby group.jpg INTEGRIS welcomes 1,000th birth since opening in October 2011

    Being the father of a new baby boy is pretty exciting, but being the father of INTEGRIS Health Edmond’s 1,000th baby made it even more special.
    “When we got to the hospital, the night-shift nurse told us we were in a race with another couple who had gotten there at 7 a.m.,” said Bryan Lane, the new baby’s father.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • okco fair 100.jpg Oklahoma County Free Fair offers competition, free fun

    Oklahoma County residents are invited to compete in the 100th annual Oklahoma County Free Fair as they take part in many activities scheduled just for them.
    The county fair will get underway Aug. 21-23 at the Oklahoma State Fair Park and will be highlighted by its open adult and youth along with 4-H and Oklahoma Home and Community Education categories, as well as its special contest and activities.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Grieving children find support at Calm Waters

    Calm Waters Center for Children and Families offers free support groups for children, ages 3–18 and their families whose lives have been affected by death or divorce.
    Oklahoma continues to rank among the top states in the nation for unintentional and premature deaths, leaving single parents raising children. Additionally, Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest divorce rates per capita in the nation. These tragedies leave children feeling isolated, sad, and uncertain.

    July 31, 2014

  • Church hosts adult Vacation BIble School

    “Jesus is the Source” will be the theme of Edmond First Church of the Nazarene’s second annual adult Vacation BIble School.
    The progam will be from 6-8:30 p.m. Aug. 4-7 at the church, located at 3001 S. Boulevard. It will include a light supper at 6 p.m. and songs, games, storytelling and crafts beginning at 6:30 p.m.
    Presenters will include members of the congregation acting as Bible characters and a special performer will be in from Texas.

    July 31, 2014

  • UCO, local Y create community garden

    A new community garden is providing a transformative learning opportunity for students and helping stock UCO’s Central Pantry.
    The University of Central Oklahoma’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center and the Edmond Rankin YMCA are sponsoring the garden, providing a transformative learning opportunity for students, and organic fruits, vegetables and herbs for the food bank.

    July 31, 2014

  • NAMI classes begin in September

    NAMI Edmond North-OKC, the local organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will offer its Family-to-Family Education Program beginning Sept. 2. It will contine Sept. 4 and 8-9. Classes will be at Crossings Community Church, Quail Springs United Methodist Church, Francis Tuttle Technology Center (Portland campus), Tinker AFB Chapel and the Thunderbird Club House in Norman.
    NAMI Family-to-Family is a free 12-session education program for family caregivers of adults living with mental illness. The sessions are offered once a week for a few hours each.

    July 30, 2014

  • clinic 1.jpg Edmond church to host free eye clinic

    An Edmond church and Feed the Children are partnering to provide a free eye clinic.
    Individuals will be able to receive a free vision test and free prescription eye glasses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Waterloo Road Baptist Church, 3100 E. Waterloo Road. All ages are welcome and registration is not required.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • UCO forensic volunteer wants to aid more agencies

    A four-person group of forensic investigators who volunteer their time to help smaller Oklahoma police departments isn’t enough to meet demand, a member said.
    Kama King, who recently completed her graduate research and will be a member of the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said outside of full-time jobs, members of the group volunteer to assist these agencies.
    As her career progresses, King hopes to help establish a permanently funded organization available to any agency in the state to assist in remains recovery as well as related training.

    July 29, 2014

  • jc_ITS map.jpg City to improve traffic flow

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos