New Allegations Come Out Against DHS

Thursday, December 4th 2008, 10:05 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Nine children passed around to nearly 500 case workers and supervisors. That's just one of the new allegations coming out in the lawsuit against Oklahoma's Department of Human Services.

The group of attorneys suing DHS filed a motion on Thursday to get all of the DHS emails relating to their nine clients.

They say it will prove, case workers were over-loaded, their clients were passed around and in some cases forgotten for months.

The lawyers suing Oklahoma's Department of Human Services say their clients bring new meaning to the words falling through the cracks.

"Something falling through the cracks here is a child and when we say a child is falling through the cracks that means they are suffering severe abuse," said Attorney Paul DeMuro.

They've long claimed their clients have been passed from one case worker to another.

Now DHS's own attorney admits their nine clients have 176 primary case workers, 125 secondary workers and 190 supervisors.

That's a whopping total of 491 people that were supposed to be looking after just nine children.

"That's a staggering number. That type of supervision is no supervision at all," said DeMuro.

DeMuro says the few emails they have been able to gather from DHS paint a dysfunctional picture.

One email characterizes a child's placement as being "doomed from the start."

Another series of emails talks about a child who had been in a McAlester shelter for weeks, on his third shelter placement.

The e-mailer says the reason, not enough foster homes.

Even when DHS did have a possible home, it seems like children still fell through the cracks.

One e-mail dated April 30th says a request sat on a desk since October and the case had been passed around after a worker went on extended leave.

"Merry go round staffing and it leads to merry go round placement. And when you have that type of lack of continuity it is just an absolute certainty that children will be abused in the system and that's what's happening," said DeMuro.

DeMuro and his fellow attorneys have tried for nine months to get more emails, but DHS is resisting.

"And every day that passes, every single day that passes there are children in Oklahoma in the state's care that are being harmed, significantly," said DeMuro.

DHS's attorneys have said it would be too burdensome for the agency to produce these emails and the Plaintiffs should have to shoulder part of the cost of printing all of those emails.

Now a federal judge will decide who will provide what. This is just the latest front in what's promising to be a long legal battle.