Oklahoma’s foster care crisis is showing signs of recovery, thanks to efforts by the state’s new governor and improvement within the local Department of Human Services (DHS), setting an example for other states to follow. A new OK DHS report released last week indicates that the state is on track in making improvements to its system for the first time in years. The report noted that the agency “received the most positive report to date on the agency’s foster care reform efforts since it began making improvements in 2012” and “achieved ‘good faith efforts’ in 29 of 31 performance areas according to the latest report from the monitors overseeing the agency progress.” Among the findings:
- DHS added over 840 new case workers and supervisors, and increased their pay
- “Enhanced safety practices… have resulted in fewer children experiencing abuse or neglect while in state care.”
- More than 4,200 new foster families have been approved, “the highest increase in foster homes of any state in the nation.”
- “More home-based services… keep many children safe with their families and avoid removals.”
- Over half of placed children go to kinship foster homes (with relatives), “reserving traditional foster homes for children without identified or approved relatives….”
- “More than 11,500 children have been adopted from the foster care system and more than 15,000 have been successfully reunited with their families.”
This has led to, among other results, “92 percent of children in DHS custody” being placed with families. Oklahoma has been known for its poor foster care system, and was even part of a class-action suit which was settled out of court, as the report notes.
While Oklahoma is still working on its improvements, the state is showing what can be done in little time when focusing on children becomes a priority. Challenges still remain regarding “therapeutic foster care” for children with mental health diagnoses who need special services, such as those “with autism, complex medical needs, and co-occurring mental health disorders and intellectual disabilities.”
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