Foster Parents Agree DHS Has Problems

Thursday, February 14th 2008, 7:08 pm
By: News On 6

Some foster parents back up claims of problems at the Department of Human Services.  DHS is being sued by a children's rights group, which claims foster children are not properly cared for in state custody.  The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports those parents want change in the system.

Several parents are incredibly frustrated with DHS, and they hope there's some positive change.  They describe a system that's overwhelmed with children and paperwork.

Artis Gavin spent years caring for foster children and she defends some of caseworkers doing a difficult job.

"Everything is not all bad, and everybody is saying DHS, I have known some great workers that got right in there and worked with me," said former DHS foster parent Artis Gavin.

Gavin cared for four children over six years and ended up adopting one of them.  She said she became a foster parent because of a coworker who had foster children.

"And, I overheard this lady talking about being a foster parent and I knew she wasn't a good parent to her own children, but nobody stood up and said anything, so how can she be a good parent to a foster child?" said former DHS foster parent Artis Gavin.

The claims that DHS doesn't weed out bad foster parents is just one of the charges in the lawsuit.  DHS is also accused of failing to stop abuse against children in custody, especially in group settings.  Gavin says some of her foster children had been abused by other foster kids.

"I read some letters from one of my children that came to my home who was coerced into doing some things and was told nobody loves you, I love you more than anybody, it was the saddest thing I've ever seen," said former DHS foster parent Artis Gavin.

The lawsuit also alleges that DHS doesn't have enough case workers, which results in children not being properly monitored, and that DHS doesn't have enough foster parents, which results in overcrowding at the emergency shelters.

It's well documented that children sometimes stay for months in shelters intended for short term stays. 

The Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa is constantly at capacity, despite being intended as only a temporary stop for children who are taken from their parents.  Gavin believes the work of DHS is too important to allow it to be done poorly and she's hoping the lawsuit results in change.

DHS defends its record, but over the last few years has had several very public cases of failing to protect children in custody.  Child advocates claim there are far more cases that are not public, but almost as bad, so they're suing, trying to force change in the whole system.