For Media Inquiries, Contact:
George Earl Johnson Jr. - OKDHS Office of Communications
Phone: (405) 521-3027, Fax: (405) 522-3146
99.9 Percent Full
By Howard H. Hendrick
Director, Oklahoma Department of Human Services
The front page of the Oct. 28 Sunday Oklahoman criticized the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS). The story focused on waivers we granted during a recent 19 month period to less than 20 persons who live in a child care home or provide care in a licensed child care facility and whose criminal past would otherwise make them ineligible to provide care. For waiver applicants who lied, the exposure was justified. For those who have addressed their failures, it was an unnecessary trauma.
Unfortunately, the story failed to give proportion. It grossly distorted the problem with a glaring headline, “Who’s watching your children?” The article created the impression that former prostitutes and cop shooters deliver child care.
Every day, 25,000 people provide child care for more than 125,000 children who arrive at more than 5,100 licensed Oklahoma child care facilities. All are required to submit an acceptable OSBI background check or receive a waiver from OKDHS to be present in a child care facility. Admittedly, not everyone who can submit an acceptable OSBI background check will be good with children. During the 19 months, 47 criminal waiver requests were denied, and 97 waivers were granted. Less than 20 of the granted waivers were questioned by The Oklahoman representing less than one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of the child care workforce in the state.
A waiver request from a convicted child molester would never be approved. A waiver request from a person convicted of a property crime many years ago would likely be approved routinely. Other cases fall in the middle.
Two changes will be made to the waiver process. First, a small committee will be used to make these decisions so the responsibility and judgment for granting waivers is shared instead of being made by one person. Secondly, in cases where doubt may exist as to whether the waiver should or should not be granted, we will insist on supplemental information from the applicant to be sure a more comprehensive picture of the applicant’s current character is understood.
Contrary to the impression created by the story, we at Human Services continue to take child safety seriously. During the same 19 months, approximately 150 child care centers or homes had their licenses revoked for licensing infractions. With 3 unannounced visits per year per licensee, Oklahoma requires the most visits of any state in the nation. We maintain a 93 percent compliance with this standard. Oklahoma also has almost 200 nationally-accredited child care centers or homes, one of the highest per capita rates in the nation. In spite of the high rates of monitoring, if your child is the one hurt, it is a pain that is almost too much for any of us to bear. That is why we consistently work to improve.
An old saying asks, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” When the glass is 99.9 percent full, reasonable people might disagree sometimes about one-tenth of one percent.