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Oklahomans Express Frustration With Child Welfare Commissioners “asleep at the wheel”

It’s getting hot in Oklahoma … especially for the majority of commissioners charged with overseeing the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS).

Just a few weeks ago, we reported that our continuing investigation into Oklahoma’s dysfunctional and dangerous foster care system continues to yield disturbing facts about the rate of abuse and neglect children are suffering while in state custody — and that about half of those incidents don’t get reported to the federal government.

Equally disturbing is the lack of accountability and oversight we found at the highest levels of management. DHS is held accountable only to a commission of appointed individuals, not to the governor.

Now the press has begun to ask difficult questions of the DHS commissioners, only one of whom — Steven Dow — has spoken out about the failures and the determination to understand their roots and seek solutions. This weekend,The Oklahoman ran one story about how most of the commissioners paid scant attention to the audit that detailed the child welfare agency’s shortcomings. In a separate story, The Oklahoman recounts how Dow’s request for a special meeting about the horrifying death of 5-year-old Serenity Deal after child welfare officials returned her to her violent father.

We hope this intensifying scrutiny makes it even more apparent that Oklahoma’s child welfare system is in critical need of reform to make the state’s most vulnerable children safer.

DHS commissioners ignored suit, audit calling for reform (The Oklahoman, September 11, 2011)
Oklahoma DHS governing board refuses special meeting on Serenity Deal death (The Oklahoman, September 11, 2011)
EDITORIAL: Oklahoma’s abused children deserve better from Human Services Commission (The Oklahoman, September 13, 2011)