The state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would strengthen Oklahoma’s foster care system by incorporating non-profit organizations and faith-based entities into the state’s program.
Authored by Sen. Dan Newberry and Rep. Gus Blackwell, House Bill 3258 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop and implement a plan to contract with community-based social services agencies for the provision of foster care and related services. Newberry said the legislation would make the state’s foster care system stronger while assuring that DHS retains full oversight of the program.
“This proposal will serve to strengthen the system by providing more functional and versatile services within the state’s foster care structure,” said Newberry, R-Tulsa. “Our goal is to establish a system that best serves the needs and interest of children and the state as a whole. This legislation does so by providing relief for overburdened agency personnel and guaranteeing adequate services for foster children.”
Newberry noted the bill also directs the department to develop an alternative plan in communities where it is not feasible to competitively contract with a private agency. Additionally, the legislation requires the establishment of a quality assurance program to monitor the privatized services. DHS will be required to develop and implement a comprehensive plan by July 1, 2013. HB 3258 was approved unanimously by the Senate.
“The unanimous approval of this measure underscores the importance of reform in this area of state government,” Newberry. “I’m pleased we could come together in support of a proposal that will adequately address shortcomings in the state’s foster care system.”
HB 3258 now advances to the office of the Governor.