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Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) has received the latest co-neutrals commentary for progress on the Pinnacle Plan, the state’s foster care reform plan.
This commentary represents the most positive report to date from the monitors overseeing the state’s foster care reform efforts, as well as the first full period of service by OKDHS Director Justin Brown and Child Welfare Director Deborah Shropshire, M.D.
OKDHS celebrates the good-faith efforts noted in 29 of the 30 performance areas and the co-neutrals commendation of “the department’s leadership team and staff at all levels who have worked hard to improve outcomes in child safety, permanency and well-being in Oklahoma.”
This includes achieving good-faith efforts in Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC), the only performance area to not receive good-faith in previous reports.
The co-neutrals are reserving judgment on the performance measure for supervisor workloads due to a change made mid-period to the methodology to assess performance, and will evaluate this area in the next commentary.
“All of our agency’s True North strategies, whether in Child Welfare, or any other program area, put our customer at the center of our agency’s work,” said Director Justin Brown.
“I am so proud of our Child Welfare team for their focus on improving outcomes for Oklahoma’s children, as represented in this report. Our agency has a tremendous desire for continuous improvement so that we may better serve our customers, and our work over the last six months is emblematic of that desire.”
For the first time since reforms began, the Co-Neutrals noted good-faith efforts within the TFC program. OKDHS has implemented significant practice, process and programmatic changes to ensure the children who need therapeutic services receive those services in a family-based setting, when appropriate.
Though the agency celebrates this success, there is a continued need for families willing to support children and youth with increased behavioral or mental health needs. The agency and its partners stand ready to offer robust support to families who are ready to take on this important work.
“Our agency and our state must continue to invest our hearts and our efforts into ensuring every child and family who is served by our child welfare system has their individual needs met,” said Dr. Deborah Shropshire, OKDHS Child Welfare Director.
“We are not letting our foot of the gas. Though we’ve made marked improvements and celebrate the work of our dedicated teams across the state, we’re not done yet and will continue to improve our systems to benefit every child and family with whom our agency comes into contact.
“We are here to serve and bring hope to Oklahomans, and we need individuals and families across the state to join us in our work.”
While OKDHS has made great strides in recruitment of traditional and kinship foster families, as well as TFC families during this reporting period, the agency still needs more families to step forward.
TFC families are so important because they support the therapeutic needs of children in state care within a family setting.
These needs include treatment and management of behavioral health, physical health, developmental disabilities or a combination of these.
The agency seeks to serve children within their home communities to keep children closer to their kin, culture and community and needs foster families in every community across the state to serve this population of children.
OKDHS is working closely with therapeutic foster care and partner agencies to develop additional services and robust supports for foster families willing to care for children who have more extensive needs.