Rep. Ron Peters credits law for child care improvements
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Published: 17-Jun-2010

Legislative Staff Release

Published: 17-Jun-2010

State Rep. Ron Peters today credited new law based on recommendations from a recent audit of the Department of Human Services for helping Oklahoma secure a high rating in a report by a child advocacy group examining state regulation of child-care facilities.

The National Association of Child Care and Referral Agencies ranked Oklahoma as the 2nd best state in the nation when it comes to child care facility regulation. The state is one of nine that met all of the group’s 10 recommended requirements for health and safety. It is one of 13 states that requires a license to care for “even one unrelated” child. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services requires a minimum of three surprise inspections a year and background checks for all adults working in child-care facilities.

“The DHS audit conducted a few years ago pointed to a number of areas that could be improved and both lawmakers and the state agency have worked to implement the audit’s recommendations,” Peters, a Tulsa Republican, said. “The audit led to the implementation of stronger criminal background checks and more open parental communications policies. We’ve also made a number of improvements that are not covered by the scope of this particular report.”

For example, lawmakers recently learned that fewer children are being traumatized by unnecessary admission into a children’s shelter because of DHS reforms enacted by the Legislature.

According to information sent today to CapitolBeatOK, the shelter population in Tulsa shrank from approximately 75 children to 26 children more recently. Oklahoma City’s shelter population shrank from around 65 children on average to 19 more recently. The audit had shown that Oklahoma had nearly twice the U.S. average of children in state custody and that 20 percent of children removed from their home were returned within one week of removal. In the Tulsa area, 40 percent of children removed are returned in that same time frame. Furthermore, after the audit it was discovered that this rate routinely ran as high as 70 percent.

Some of the progress seen at DHS, in Peters’ analysis, includes:

● Record level of adoptions in the last two federal fiscal years and an all-time high finalized adoptions for a state fiscal year.

● Reduction of over 3,700 children in out-of-home care since July 2007.

● Worker retention continues to increase

● Lowest number of children per responsible worker in years

● Lowest average daily shelter population in years

● Established 449 agreements with law enforcement agencies for joint response

● Oklahoma County Human Service Center reorganized in Oct. 2009

● Tulsa County Human Service Center was reorganized in May, 2009

● Round-the-clock centralized hotline roll-out began in Nov. 2009 and is expected to extend statewide by the end of 2010.

“I cannot be more proud of the results the audit and subsequent reforms have created for the children of Oklahoma,” Peters said. “This will not only minimize the trauma that children in Oklahoma suffer, but will benefit all of us down the road as these children grow up and become the next generation of parents in our community.”

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