MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

April 14, 2013

DHS boss cancels contracts for foster family recruitment

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — DHS Director Ed Lake abruptly canceled 10 recently awarded contracts Friday with private agencies retained to assist in recruiting and retaining foster families.

Lake acted after state lawmakers forwarded complaints from other provider agencies that were dissatisfied with the competitive selection process.

“Please know that my decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the agencies awarded contracts,” Lake said in a memo to the affected private agencies. “However, I firmly believe the downside of going forward under these conditions outweigh the benefits for both your agency and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.”

Lake cited four major reasons for canceling the performance-based contracts:

The language of the request for proposals was too “prescriptive” and worked against “provider creativity, flexibility and capability.”

The service regions of the state were artificially defined and worked “against the reality of how resource homes could be recruited and supported.”

By limiting the number of contractors to 10 from specific regions, the competitive process eliminated a lot of high-quality agencies that could help the state, he said. Also, the private contractors weren’t allowed enough say in the design and details of contracts.

Lake told The Oklahoman that he also had received provider complaints about the harshness of financial penalty provisions within the contracts and that some had expressed confusion about certain terms and conditions.

Lake noted that bids for the contracts had already been received by the time he was named director.

DHS plans to start immediately to design a new selection process and wants to have new contracts in place by July 1, said Sheree Powell, a DHS spokeswoman.

DHS has the right to cancel contracts within 60 days of the times they are awarded, and this cancellation was within that time frame, Powell said.

Four state representatives issued a news release Friday saying they also agreed with the action.

“We realize that this move by the department will unfortunately further delay the essential step of partnering with private organizations to recruit, train and support foster families,” Reps. Pam Peterson, Jason Nelson, Pat Ownbey and Wade Rousselot said in their joint news release. “However, we believe moving forward with the current process would yield significantly worse results over the long run compared to a delay in the short run necessary to address these significant issues.”

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