DHS Supervisor Speaks Out After 10-Year-Old Girl's Death

Wednesday, October 25th 2017, 5:57 pm

A 10-year-old girl died because officials say a family member didn't give her her asthma medicine.  The death prompted policy changes at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services but a DHS Supervisor tells News 9 she recommended the child be taken into state custody months earlier.

According to DHS records, 10-year-old Shaquality Cox died in April after suffering an asthma attack. She didn't have her prescription inhaler and was in respiratory distress for three hours before she got medical attention.  She was staying with her aunt while DHS tried to help Shaquality's mother, a long-time drug user.

“We recommended that we removed the children because of history of the family,” said Heidi, a DHS supervisor who asked we not use her last name because of safety concerns. Her group was asked to investigate Shaquality’s family months before the girl’s death. But Heidi says her district director overruled that decision and instead recommended Shaquality be placed with a family member while they worked with her mom.

“Although I still thought the kids needed to be in custody because of mom’s history, but because I do what I’m told to do the FCS case was initiated.”

However, after Shaquality died, Heidi was disciplined in the case as were several other DHS workers. Heidi has since filed an EEOC claim with the state.

“This was a family that had extensive contacts with DHS and the mom had an ongoing drug problem and they wanted to bring the child into custody and the district director is ultimately the one who said no and the district director is the one who hasn’t been disciplined,” said Heidi’s attorney Rachell Bussett. “And that is wrong.” 

A DHS spokesperson says they can’t talk about the specific details in this case but generally, decisions are made to work with families in the least restrictive manner possible.