Oklahoma DHS Claims Victory After Judge Throws Out Part Of Suit

Friday, December 2nd 2011, 11:15 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's embattled child welfare agency won a legal victory Friday.

A federal judge threw out part of the class action lawsuit against the Department of Human Services. But both DHS and the group suing them are calling this ruling a win.

The federal judge handed down a split decision. He sided with DHS, dismissing two claims, but it wasn't a clean sweep. So, the federal trial will continue.

DHS is praising one of its own and pointing to the abuse that was stopped in a home, as proof the system works.

Olivia Chaiterrakerra followed up on a tip to the state's abuse hotline. When no one would answer the door, she kept knocking.

When a woman finally responded, but wouldn't let her inside, she kept at it until she found a 5-year-old girl who was just 19 pounds. The mother of that little girl will now spend the next 20 years in prison.

DHS has long claimed it's been improving, since it sued in federal court back in 2008. The agency's attorneys asked a federal judge last month to throw out that lawsuit.

Now a federal judge has dismissed two civil rights claims.

He ruled there wasn't enough proof that DHS was hurting children's relationships with their biological parents and siblings.

He also found that there wasn't enough proof that the children in state custody were being denied their due process rights. But the judge did rule in favor of the plaintiffs on one claim.

Children's Rights, the group suing DHS, claims its core argument is whether DHS is putting children in harm's way, because DHS workers have too many cases, and not enough safe homes for children.

08/12/2011 Related Story: Advocacy Group Slams Oklahoma's DHS For Abuse Rate

Ruling against Children's Rights on this issue would have ended the case. But as it stands, a trial will move forward.

Children's Rights calls the ruling a "huge victory." DHS says it's pleased with the judge's decision and looks forward to taking the case to trial, February 21st, 2012.