The Norman Transcript

Opinion

June 3, 2012

DHS reform will keep agency in the news

NORMAN — A reader suggested the Department of Human Services reform measures signed into law this past week will move the troubled agency off the front page of the state’s newspapers.

We hope it does just the opposite. Part of the legislation requires the agency to make public information about child deaths, abuse or neglect. Federal officials have threatened to strip the state of funding if certain information is released to the governor or legislators.

Reports of cases of child deaths and abuse by foster parents and others has rocked the agency. It’s not the first time. A similar reform swept through the agency decades ago when patterns of abuse inside centers was detailed.

The new laws will reorganize the agency’s child welfare division. It also gives the governor the power to appoint the agency’s director with consent from the state Senate. Voters in November will face a state question abolishing the Commission for Human Services.

Another part of the reform measure sets up a four-citizen advisory committee. Those panels will work with children and families, disabled services and administration and aging services, according to the Tulsa World.

Besides just making new rules, legislators put some money behind their efforts. They added $50 million to the state’s Department of Human Services budget. Part of it is to settle lawsuits but much will go to needed staffing. Too often, legislators make expensive changes but don’t send along any money.

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