KGOU

Department of Human Services

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

It was 6 a.m. Las Vegas time when Keli Tointigh awoke to her cell phone ringing.

The Chickasha resident was on vacation with her husband, John Tointigh, when an Oklahoma Department of Human Services employee asked if the couple would be willing to take in the children of one of Keli Tointigh’s cousins. The Tointighs had never applied to be foster parents.

“She said, ‘Can you call me back today and let me know?’” Keli recalls. “I was like, ‘Today?’”

Sue Ogrocki / AP Images

The Oklahoma House of Representatives announced on Tuesday that it will choose one chaplain to lead its daily invocations for the rest of the legislative session.  

Lori Taylor reads the second letter she received from the state Department of Human Services informing her that her Medicaid waiver program will be funded temporarily.
Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

After her divorce, Lori Taylor wanted a home all her own. She moved back to Oklahoma to be near her aging parents, but she had a problem. For years her personal caregiver had been her now ex-husband.

“I have cerebral palsy and that’s brain damage that I incurred at birth, and it affects my motor skills. I’m confined to an electric wheelchair. I can stand but I can’t walk, I have very limited use of my arms,” Taylor says, sitting in the living room of her Norman apartment.

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address Feb. 1, 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Governor Mary Fallin says state legislators must return to the Capitol for a special legislative session. In a statement released Wednesday, Fallin said the session is the only way to fill a budget hole created when the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a smoking cessation fee last week.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake.
Public Radio Tulsa

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced Tuesday it will cut 200 positions while adding 300 child welfare workers.

In an email sent to employees obtained by KGOU, DHS Director Ed Lake said the agency needs more child welfare specialists.

“I know that seems counterintuitive, but as an integral part of our efforts to address the high number of children currently in our custody and continue our progress to reduce workload levels as required by the Pinnacle Plan, we need more child welfare specialist and we need them now,” Lake wrote. 

Oklahoma Department of Human Services

Plaintiffs in a now-settled lawsuit say not enough progress is being made to improve the foster care system in Oklahoma.

The Pinnacle Plan is an agreement to the suit, which claimed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services had policies that led to the harm of abused and neglected children in state custody.

The plan has a list of specific improvements that should be met by 2017, with goals to reach along the way. Monitors of the plan have given mixed verdicts in the agency's success in meeting the benchmarks.

The Tulsa World reports that plaintiffs have written a letter to the monitors, seeking them to intervene to spur faster change.

Synergos Institute / Flickr

Despite a budget hole of $611 million, a court-ordered reform of Oklahoma’s child welfare system will be funded for the 2016 fiscal year, the chairmen of the Legislature’s budget-writing committees said Monday.  

State Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said the Department of Human Services’ Pinnacle Plan would be funded for the next fiscal year.

“It’s not up for debate,” said Jolley, chairman of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee. “The Pinnacle Plan will be funded.”

Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, who is House budget chair, agreed.