Today, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services received the most positive report to date from neutral monitors overseeing improvements in the foster care system. The "co-neutrals", as they are called, issue commentaries every six months on the department's progress in 31 specific measurable targets and determine whether DHS has made good faith efforts to achieve substantial and sustained progress.
In their report issued November 17, the co-neutrals determined DHS had made good faith efforts in 27 of the 31 measures. This was a marked improvement from the last report issued in April 2016 where DHS achieved 20 good faith ratings.
"We are very encouraged by this report and appreciate the co-neutral's recognition of our continued progress in so many areas of the foster care system," said DHS Director Ed Lake. "We know there are a few critical areas that still need improvement and we are fully committed to continuing to implement effective strategies, developed with the co-neutrals, which will yield more positive results in the months ahead."
"Keeping children and youth safe from abuse or neglect while in our care will always be our highest priority," said Jami Ledoux, Director of Child Welfare Services. "Our child welfare specialists are working every day on a number of efforts to improve safety within foster homes and other types of placements. We are beginning to see positive results in group home settings and are confident that focused efforts with foster homes will improve safety in those settings as well."
"Helping kids to return home to their parents or to a loving, adoptive family as quickly as possible is our goal," said Ledoux. "I am so impressed and amazed at how Oklahomans have opened their hearts and homes this past year to adopt more than 2,200 children and older youth from foster care.
"Unfortunately, we still have more than 500 kids who are legally free and ready for adoption," Ledoux continued. "Many of these are older teens who are in danger of aging out of the system without a family, while others have disabilities or other challenges which will require special care and extra attention. Finding homes for all of these kids will take the continued support of Oklahomans and our community and faith partners."
Tom Bates, Special Adviser to Governor Fallin, said the Governor's Office also thought the report was very encouraging.
"It reflects not only the hard work of DHS staff, but also the positive results that come with strong community partnerships, particularly with our churches and faith leaders," said Bates. "I am excited to see these efforts continue through the Governor's Oklahoma Fosters campaign and know that together we will find safe, loving homes for all of our children."