$100 Million Plan To Improve Oklahoma Foster Care System Approved

Wednesday, July 25th 2012, 10:00 pm

An improvement plan to reform Oklahoma's foster care was approved Tuesday, by a group of child welfare experts.

The Pinnacle Plan is part of a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Human Services.

It was settled in January, and since then, the state has been working on a seven-point plan to protect our children

With a new plan in place, the state's child welfare system is on its way to transformation.

"This is a very big change for the agency. This is a very big change for the way we care for our children in foster care," said DHS spokesperson Sheree Powell.

3/30/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma Leaders Announce Plans To Improve DHS, Child Welfare

Over the next five years, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will be under the watchful eye of out of state welfare experts, appointed after DHS settled a class-action lawsuit.

The state drafted the Pinnacle Plan to help better serve the state's children and families.

"We're very committed to the success of this plan. DHS is very committed to the children we serve and protect in Oklahoma, and we want to make sure this plan is very successful," Powell said.

The plan is composed of seven parts, one of which is recruiting 500 new foster families and hiring 100 additional welfare case workers over the next year.

"That way our workers have more choices on matching children with the right family," Powell said.

Employees will be required to take more training courses and go through a certification program.

The use of shelters will also decrease.

Powell said child placement is where immediate changes will take effect.

"When they are placed into DHS custody, they're not gonna go into a shelter right off the bat," Powell said. "If there's a young child under the age of six, they're gonna go immediately to a family, so that's where children are really going to experience the difference."

Already, DHS has raised the pay and reimbursement rate for foster families and increased salaries for child welfare workers.

The five-year improvement plan will cost about $100 million.

So far, they have $25 million from the state, which only covers the first year.