Deficiencies in Oklahoma’s child protective system cannot be blamed on the employees who work in the child welfare system. Even though child welfare workers and other DHS staff have the day-to-day responsibility for child protection, it is each Oklahoman’s responsibility to see that our children are safe.
The recent report on Oklahoma’s progress in improving its system shows that much work remains to be done to improve child protection. One of the report’s key findings is that caseloads remain high primarily due to difficulty in hiring workers despite improvements in salary. Our child welfare workers continue to do all they can to protect children even though referrals continue to increase and resources are often difficult to find.
We frequently hear from OPEA members in child welfare that they do their jobs because they want to make a difference in the lives of Oklahoma families. Some believe they are “called” to the job despite its stress and strain on themselves and their families. The bottom line is that the work done by these workers is difficult and emotionally draining and Oklahoma should support them.
We also hear from many people outside the system that they “could not be a child welfare worker”. As it is with other jobs at DHS, OJA and DOC, those serving in these positions are doing jobs that others do not want to do. They go to work daily to make Oklahoma a better place. Oklahoma should support them.
The dedicated men and women working daily to protect children from abuse and neglect and the foster families providing children with safe and loving homes deserve the support and respect of all Oklahomans. Only with unwavering support of those on the front line will Oklahoma improve its child welfare system.