Q: What is CPS or Child Welfare?
A: Child Protective Services (CPS) and Child Welfare refer to OKDHS services that identify, treat and prevent child abuse and neglect. These services are provided to protect the safety of children and help families with any difficulties that put the safety of their children at risk. Services are provided either through community resources or through OKDHS. Every attempt is made to preserve the family; however, if a child’s safety is uncertain, court intervention may be necessary and may include removing the child.
Q: How old does my child need to be before I can leave him home by himself?
A: There is no law or policy in Oklahoma for how old a child has to be in order to be left alone. Here are the recommended guidelines for parents:
- Infants and children under 6 years of age should never be left alone without adult supervision.
- Generally, grade school children who demonstrate the ability to be responsible and mature may be left alone one or two hours during the day with access to a responsible adult.
- Grade school children should never be left to care for younger children.
- Middle school children who demonstrate the ability to care for themselves without help may be left alone for up to four hours during the day and evening.
- Middle school children may care for one or two younger children if there is constant access to a responsible adult.
Q: I’ve noticed unusual bruises on my neighbor’s children, and I think domestic violence might be happening. What should I do?
A: Please call the OKDHS Statewide Hotline at 1-800-522-3511. Someone will take your referral 24 hours a day. Your call can remain anonymous. Although it is not required, it helps to have identifying information such as your neighbor’s name.
Q: I know my cousin’s children are being neglected. I called the hotline and reported all the information I have. What will happen now?
A: First, thank you for your concern. The centralized hotline worker you spoke to will document the information from your call in the child welfare computer system. Then, an intake worker will search for previous child welfare history and recommend the priority level for your referral. The centralized hotline supervisor will review all of the information for the referral, including the priority level. If the referral is accepted, it will be sent to your cousin’s county and assigned to a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker in that county. If the referral is considered a priority one referral, it must be initiated by midnight the same day. If it is considered a priority two referral, the CPS worker will initiate the referral in two to 15 days.
If you provided your name and contact information when you called the hotline, you are entitled to call back and check on the status of the referral. The centralized hotline worker can tell you if the referral was accepted and where it was assigned. Once the referral is completed, the centralized hotline worker can give you a summary of the outcome.
Q: How does OKDHS determine whether or not to remove a child from a home?
A: OKDHS has no authority to remove children from their homes. Only judges and law enforcement have that authority. When a child abuse/neglect referral is initiated, an OKDHS Child Protective Services worker conducts a thorough safety assessment for the child. If the child is in danger and the safety threat cannot be controlled by the family, OKDHS may request the child be placed in emergency OKDHS custody. This request is made by submitting a written affidavit to the district attorney, who then presents it to a judge. If the judge agrees with OKDHS’ recommendation, the child is placed in emergency custody.
If there is a severe and immediate threat to the child, OKDHS may ask law enforcement to place the child in protective custody. In this situation, OKDHS is responsible for following up with a written affidavit within 23 hours.
Q: What does it mean when they say the child abuse was unsubstantiated?
A: A finding of “unsubstantiated” means an OKDHS Child Protective Services worker conducted an investigation and did not find sufficient evidence to fully determine whether child abuse or neglect had occurred. It also means the CPS worker recommended prevention and intervention related services to the child and family. These services may be provided by OKDHS or other community resources.
Q: My grandchildren were removed from their home and placed in a shelter. What happens now?
A: Children are taken to a shelter just long enough for OKDHS to find a safe and appropriate place for them. Every effort is made to place the children with family members, which is called a kinship placement. OKDHS Child Protective Services workers find kinship placements by asking the parents/custodians, asking the children (when age appropriate), searching history and seeking out others who may know the children. OKDHS must conduct a thorough criminal background check, home assessment and child welfare history check before moving the children out of the shelter and into someone’s home – even if it is a relative. The judge, district attorney and the child’s attorney must be informed of the placement before the child is moved.
Q: What is foster care?
A: Foster home care is a temporary placement providing 24-hour-a-day substitute care for children in OKDHS custody. The children range in age from birth to 18 years and are all races, cultures and religions. The children have been removed from their homes for a variety of reasons and circumstances. They all need a safe, temporary place to live and tender loving care until they can return home or move to a permanent placement. The people who provide temporary care are certified Bridge Resource Parents, or foster parents.
Q: I am interested in becoming a foster parent. Where can I go to get information, and what do I need to do to get signed up?
A: First, thank you for your interest! Our state has many children in need of caring foster parents. If you are an Oklahoma resident and would like to learn more about becoming a Bridge Resource family through OKDHS, complete an interest form online by going to our website www.okdhs.org; click on “Programs and Services” at the top of the page, click “Foster Care,” and then click “Oklahoma Foster Care Interest Form.” You may also contact your local Human Services Center and someone will get in contact with you as soon as possible. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions on the Foster Care page under “Frequently Asked Questions for prospective foster parents.” If you live outside of Oklahoma, please contact OKDHS Adoption Services at (918) 794-7544.
Q: My wife and I are interested in adopting a child. How long does it take? Is there a lot of red tape?
A: The process is extensive, but there is a good reason for it. If you were going to be sent to live with someone for the rest of your life, you would want to be sure it is a good, safe home. OKDHS is responsible for protecting waiting children from abuse, and because of this, there are many laws that require paperwork, background checks and lots of questions. Among other things, you’ll need to attend 27 hours of pre-service training, have a home study completed, and have fingerprint background checks.
Once you are certified as a Bridge Resource Parent, the amount of time it takes to adopt a child depends on the child you want to adopt and his/her situation. If you have a relationship with a child who is placed in your home, and if the child cannot be reunified with his/her parents, the adoption can take less than six months.
The adoption generally takes longer than six months in other circumstances. If you have a specific preference for the child you would like to adopt, such as age, sex, etc., it could take longer. Your family will have a greater chance of adopting more quickly if you choose a waiting child rather than an infant. Once you have identified a child you are interested in adopting, your family is recommended based on your family’s ability to meet the needs of the child. In these cases, your name is submitted with other available families across the state and the child’s worker selects the family he or she feels will best meet the child’s needs.
Q: What are the guidelines for adopting a child? Do I have to be married or have a lot of money?
A: You do not have to be married to adopt a child, and you do not have to earn a lot of money. In fact, most people who adopt waiting children work in everyday jobs. You must be able to adequately feed, clothe and house a child, just as you would if the child was born to you. For more frequently asked questions such as these, please visit our website at www.okdhs.org, click on “Programs and Services” at the top of the page, click “Adoption” and then click “Adoption frequently asked questions.”
Q: What happens to a child who is never adopted? Can they go to college?
A: Unfortunately, many children turn 18 years old without ever being adopted. OKDHS provides many different services and support systems to help these youth obtain a college degree or certificate.
- The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program provides tuition assistance for postsecondary education at any Oklahoma public career technology center, college or university.
- The Oklahoma Foster Care Independent Living Tuition Waiver provides tuition to any Oklahoma college or university for any youth who was in OKDHS custody for a nine-month period after 16 years of age. The waiver may be accessed until the youth obtains a bachelor’s degree or reaches age 26.
- Youth Development Funds are financial resources that help foster youth be prepared for postsecondary education. These resources could include tutoring; concurrent, summer, night and online classes; special school supplies; costs for ACT testing; and application costs to enroll in postsecondary education.
- Education and Training Vouchers are funds connected to the total cost of attendance at postsecondary endeavors such as college or career technology centers for eligible youth.
For additional information, please contact the Oklahoma Independent Living Program at (405) 521-3778.