CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) has received final approval from outside child welfare experts on its improvement plan for the state's foster care system.
The plan, referred to as the “Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan” is part of a settlement agreement reached in January 2012 in a federal, class action, civil rights lawsuit.
DHS agreed in the settlement to make targeted performance improvements related to the way it cares for children in foster care. As part of the settlement agreement, three out-of-state child welfare experts (referred to as “co-neutrals”) were selected to oversee the state’s improvements.
The plan was first submitted to the co-neutrals on March 30, 2012 and was subsequently endorsed on July 25, 2012. Since the plan was endorsed, Child Welfare Services (CWS) staff have implemented initiatives outlined in the plan. Quarterly reports are posted on the agency website for public review.
The last step of the approval process was to finalize the baselines, targets, and measures for the 15 performance areas. This final approval lays the foundation for the monthly required public reporting.
"DHS was challenged to improve its child welfare program and is committed to this plan," says Deborah G. Smith, Director of Child Welfare Services at the agency. "We appreciate the support of Oklahomans, especially the foster parents who are caring for these precious children. Even more important than the plan though, we care about every child in our foster care system and know they deserve our very best. They are not just numbers or cases to us. They are the future of our state."