Tulsa Judge Designates Class-Action Status

Tuesday, May 5th 2009, 1:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tuesday brought another win for the national child advocacy group suing Oklahoma's Department of Human Services in federal court. A federal judge decided the case will become a class action lawsuit, on behalf of all children in state custody.

There are nine plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  CS is a two-year-old girl.  She has been moved 13 times since birth.  She was so badly neglected in while in state care she was hospitalized for dehydration and a severe lung infection.

JP is a nine-year-old boy.  He has been through 14 moves.  He was whipped and beaten by his foster parent for a year.  He also had to be hospitalized.

GC is a 14-year-old girl.  She was moved 15 times in four years.  She was physically abused and sexually assaulted, all while in the state's care.

Children's Rights, the national child advocacy group behind the lawsuit, says there are many more children just like them.  And, they want to sue the state for all of their sakes.

Children's Rights attorneys claim Oklahoma's DHS system is broken and it needs system-wide change.

They say high case loads and a lack of foster homes are to blame for the high rates of abuse of children, while in state care.

DHS attorneys argue that Children's Rights have picked nine of the worst examples.  And, most children in DHS custody are not abused, but well taken care of, and monitored by their case workers.  They point to a federal review that shows 90% of the time case workers are visiting their clients once a month.

3/10/2009 Related story: Oklahoma House Passes DHS Audit Bill        

Just under 2% of kids in state custody are abused, but that's three times the national standard.  DHS admits that's too high, but they want the judge to consider the other 98%.

And, they argue the problems of 2% do not justify a class action lawsuit of 10,000 children.