OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and the head of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) today thanked the state Senate for their unanimous support of a bill proposing several improvements within the state’s foster care system.
Senate Bill 727, by Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie) would:
• Ensure a more collaborative process between parents and DHS and more actively engage parents around decisions involving child placement.
• Strengthen long-term accountability at DHS by requiring yearly public reports be submitted regarding the foster care system, child welfare staff workloads and other key metrics.
• Increase support and resources for foster parents and strengthen the Foster Parents Bill of Rights.
• Reduce liability for foster parents to allow children in DHS custody to participate in appropriate activities, such as permitting foster children to participate in football or basketball.
• Lower the age from 16 to 14 for youth in DHS custody to receive annual credit reports
The bill passed on a vote of 41-0 in the Senate and now heads to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
DHS Director Ed Lake said the legislation was part of an effort to permanently improve services for foster children and parents.
“Over the last several years, our agency and staff have worked very hard to improve services and outcomes through the multi-year Pinnacle Plan,” said Lake. “This bill will help to ensure that those gains are permanent, and that the state continues to strive for the safest, most effective foster care system possible.”
OICA CEO Joe Dorman said SB 727 was an important step forward in ensuring that Oklahoma children are safe and in stable homes.
“There really isn’t a more important goal – both morally and for the future of our state – than making sure every child has a safe and loving home,” said Dorman. “This bill helps us to track our progress and identify potential areas of improvement within child welfare services, increases collaboration between parents and caseworkers, and provides more resources to foster parents.
“My thanks go out to Sen. Griffin for continuing to be a champion for at-risk children in Oklahoma, as well as all the senators who voted for this legislation. I strongly urge our House members to support this bill and get it to the governor’s desk.”