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DHS Reaches Major Goal in State Foster Care Overhaul Plan

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DHS announced progress Wednesday in the plan to overhaul our state's foster care program.

The agency says it has reached the first major goal of the reform plan developed after DHS was sued for the care of Oklahoma's children.

4/3/2012 Related Story: Group Calls For Reforms In Oklahoma Foster Care, DHS System

DHS leaders say it's a big achievement, moving the youngest children under state care out of shelters.

"It is much better on a child to go directly to a home than it is to a shelter," DHS Communications Director Sheree Powell said.

It's the first major step of the Pinnacle Plan.

DHS commissioners agreed to make the reforms to the agency's foster care program when it was being sued after children died in its care.

10/13/2011 Related Story: Agency's Report Details Events Leading To OKC Toddler's Death

10/7/2011 Related Story: More Oklahoma Lawmakers Blast DHS's Handling Of Child Fatality Cases

Last January, the Pinnacle Plan was developed when DHS settled a federal class-action lawsuit.

"That's basically our commitment to the state of Oklahoma saying, ‘this is what we're going to do to improve our foster care program,'" Powell said.

The next goal for the agency is to move all children under the age of six out of shelter care.

That deadline is July 1 of this year, when DHS is required to meet another goal - recruiting more foster parents statewide.

"Our goal is to recruit more than 2,000 foster families by July 1st of this year," Powell said.

So far, it has recruited more than 900 foster parents. DHS is also hiring more case workers. More than 200 have been added since last July.

DHS has also increased pay for child welfare workers. It has increased the reimbursement rates for foster parents, and it's restructured the child welfare division within the agency.

The state legislature increased DHS funding last year by $50 million, with half of that going to pay for the Pinnacle Plan.

5/14/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma House Members Announce Plan To Reform DHS

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