DHS Audit Criticizes Tulsa Shelter

Thursday, February 26th 2009, 10:00 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A recent audit of the Department of Human Services criticizes two big state-run shelters in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The Laura Dester Center is supposed to be a temporary safe place for children in crisis. It sees 1,500 children a year.

But the state-run shelter has recently come under fire.    

A DHS audit released Wednesday has recommended the state close Laura Dester and another state-run facility in Oklahoma City.

The audit reports Laura Dester has consistently violated DHS standards. The Office of Juvenile System Oversight found the Tulsa shelter was overcrowded 19 times in the first four months of 2008.

The report also found the facility wasn't so temporary, with four children staying for longer than two months, a violation of DHS policy.

"Shelters are very impersonal and very frightening to young kids, and we need to reduce the use of shelters," said Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa.

Even as lawmakers are pushing to put the shelters out of business, bulldozers are pushing dirt at a new Tulsa facility.

DHS announced last month a new $10 million Tulsa shelter. The 20-acre site is licensed to house 60 children.

Oklahoma is already spending $8 million a year on emergency shelters.

The audit claims the money would be better spent finding emergency foster homes for children.

It goes on to say those placements are less disruptive and less frightening to children who already traumatized.

A DHS spokesman says despite the audit's recommendations the plans for the new shelter will proceed. He says this has been in the works for years.