, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 16, 2014

More than 125 DHS employees disciplined last year

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Disciplinary records from the Oklahoma Department of Human Service show that more than 125 employees were fired, suspended or demoted during 2013 for various infractions, including one instance of an employee picking up the wrong baby from a day care.

The records show a child welfare specialist picked up a baby girl instead of a baby boy that the worker had picked up weekly for "at least 12 weeks," The Oklahoman reported Sunday. The employee was suspended for three days without pay.

"Before exiting the daycare parking lot, you contacted the foster mother asking if she had cut the child's hair and pierced his ears," the worker was told in a disciplinary letter. "The foster mother asked if you had the wrong child. You said, 'Yes,' and 'laughed' about it.

"The foster mother reported ... that you were very rude when you contacted her and appeared to be yelling while questioning her about the child's physical appearance," the letter said. "The foster mother further stated this was your normal behavior."

DHS Director Ed Lake told the newspaper that most agency workers are skilled, compassionate and trustworthy, but that like any company, the department has a few employees who are sometimes disciplined for various reasons.

The actions "demonstrate we do not tolerate these behaviors and we hold our employees to a very high standard," Lake said. "When employees violate our trust, intentionally disobey policy or are abusive to the people we serve, we will not hesitate to take appropriate disciplinary actions."

The records also showed instances in which children were endangered.

One child abuse hotline worker was fired for failing to immediately act on a report that a newborn was in imminent danger. A child welfare specialist was fired after a supervisor found falsified records regarding children's safety, and a child welfare supervisor was fired for failing to act and provide oversight that the report said "left children in danger and ultimately resulted in harm to children."

DHS is in the second year of a five-year "Pinnacle Plan" intended to improve child welfare operations, including the hiring of more child welfare workers, increasing their pay and trying to reduce their caseloads.

It also has involved recruiting more foster parents so children in DHS care do not stay in overcrowded shelters.


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