Lawmaker Furious With Fed Position on Child Welfare

OKLAHOMA CITY – In response to the federal mandate that Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services abstain from making public the details surrounding child abuse and neglect, state Rep. Mike Sanders said today that investigating the failures in the Oklahoma child welfare system must continue, even in the case that $50 million in federal funds are lost.

A May 9 letter from the Dallas-based regional manager for the federal Children’s Bureau, Administration of Children & Families to interim DHS Director Preston Doerflinger was covered by The Oklahoman, stating the position that $50 million in federal funding could be in jeopardy. According to the letter, state officials should not release information about DHS contacts with children like Serenity Deal, who was killed in the home of her father, where she was placed by the agency.

“DHS has failed to protect the lives of our children and hiding the facts will only prevent us from pinpointing the problems and making effective reforms. This serves no justice to the families that have endured the loss of a child nor will it prevent such tragedies from happening in the future,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “The federal government’s mandates and their implications speak to the common issue in government of bureaucracy versus accountability and transparency. We cannot sacrifice the reforms of DHS, an agency responsible for the welfare of our children, in order to maintain federal funding and a continuation of the same broken system.

“Too many children have died under the care of the Department of Human Services,” said Sanders. “Legislators continue to work towards a number of important reforms that resulted from our knowledge of what took place in the numerous DHS cases that resulted in death. It is more than necessary that this information remain available to the public. The progress of reform depends on it.”

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