Lawmakers Work To Rebuild Oklahoma DHS From The Ground Up

Thursday, May 31st 2012, 11:23 pm
By: Tess Maune

Governor Fallin signed off on reforms that essentially would rebuild Oklahoma's Department of Human Services from the ground up. Legislators say the new laws get Oklahoma closer to the goal

Four bills, to help provide a better environment for children, are now law.

News On 6 spoke with one of the authors of those bills and he says their work has just begun. The first measure reorganizes management in the child welfare division.

Lawmakers say it should increase efficiency to help avoid gaps in service. It's also designed to allow welfare workers to communicate or work more closely with policy makers.

The second measure will make the agency more transparent by disclosing more information on child welfare cases.

DHS will be required to report its initial findings in cases of child death, abuse or neglect to the governor, legislators and investigative authorities.

Democrat Representative Wade Rousselot, who helped author the bill says, "Our goal is to make better lives for children, they're our most precious commodity. If we can save just one, we've done our job."

The third measure would abolish the Commission for Human Services. Rousselot says Oklahoma is one of the last states with a DHS commission. That commission is not elected.

The measure would also give the governor the power to appoint the DHS director, with Senate consent. To increase accountability, a new advisory panel would be created by the governor and legislative leaders.

The fourth and final measure will provide more resources to hire more employees and help lessen the burden for social workers with heavy case loads.

Abolishing the DHS commission will take a vote of the people this fall.

01/05/2012 Related Story: Can Oklahoma DHS Learn From Tennessee?