Oklahoma rethinking child welfare system

Millions of federal dollars that Oklahoma had been spending on foster care for abused and neglected children will be shifted to pay for in-home services designed to keep troubled families together under a program set to begin in July.

 “This is the most dramatic change that we will have made in child welfare in decades,” said Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.

Over the next four years, Oklahoma has obtained a federal waiver that will give the state flexibility in how it spends more than $381 million to improve child welfare.

Some of the money will continue to be needed to help pay for foster care services for children who must be removed from dangerous homes.

But DHS officials are proposing to use much of that money to provide families with intensive in-home services to treat problems like drug addiction, mental illness and poor parenting skills, while allowing the children to remain home, Powell said.

The program will be introduced in Oklahoma County in July, with plans to expand it to other counties in future years, she said.

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