DHS Lobby Day and Press Conference April 16

This week, OPEA members from the Department of Corrections talked about their jobs to the Capitol press corps. It is now time for DHS workers to tell their stories.

For too long the press has been selectively reporting on DHS issues, especially those relating to child welfare. Nothing is said about the daily sacrifices made by DHS workers who remain on the front lines. Nothing is said about the children that are saved. Nothing is said about the lives you touch.

On April 16, OPEA is planning a day for DHS employees to tell their stories to the legislators who make decisions about the state budget. As part of the day, we will be hosting a press conference to tell our side of the story.

Caseloads are growing out of control, turnover is at an all time high, placements are harder to find, state employee families are sacrificing under the burden of increasing bills… You can tell your story better than anyone.

A few years ago, the legislature sponsored an interim study on issues at DHS. OPEA members told compelling stories about their lives on the job. One worker told of a little boy who had been removed from his home, who would not let go of him. The worker missed his son’s soccer game to be certain the child was secure in an emergency foster home. Family support workers told of the families of the working poor they help in their community. These stories had an effect on state leaders.

Once more we are asking you to take time to tell us how your day went. Who did you help? How does your job change your community? How did the caseload numbers below affect your ability to do your job? How does turnover impact your office or facility?

What you can do:
ü Plan to attend DHS Lobby Day on April 16, RSVP to Trish Frazier, at trishf@opea.org or 800-880-6732 or 405-524-6764.
ü Whether or not you can attend Lobby Day email your story to Trish Frazier at trishf@opea.org by Monday, April 14, 9:00 a.m. The sooner the better. We will not use your name unless we contact you first. We need stories of challenges you face and the good work you do. A “day in the life” would be a helpful.

Events for the day include:

  • Discussion of the report
  • Press conference on DHS workload and turnover
  • Lobby Human Services Subcommittees in the House and Senate
  • Meeting with Director Howard Hendrick

Increasing Caseloads

Across Oklahoma state employees are helping families with essential services, in spite of increasing workloads. Since 2000, the number of employees at DHS has increased by 136 employees, while the need for essential services continues to skyrocket:

  • Advantage Waiver recipients increased by 88 percent from 11,333 to 21,324 between FY 2000 and 2007. This important program helps elderly and disabled Oklahomans remain at home and not in institutionalized care.
  • The monthly average of food stamp recipients increased by 42 percent, from 298,204 to 423,084 between 2002 and 2007. Most food stamp recipients are families of the working poor, who have low-paid jobs or are between jobs.
  • Medicaid recipients have increased by 51 percent since 2000, from 396,526 to 600,930. Medicaid participation is limited to children, pregnant women, disabled and elderly.
  • Adult Protective Services referrals per year have increased by 19 percent or 2,861 since 2002.
  •  Child Welfare referrals per year have increased by 74 percent or 8,254 since 2001.

Employee Turnover

Because of low pay and increasing caseloads, job classifications in DHS offices have experienced high turnover in recent years. Jobs in local human service centers require extensive training, knowledge of federal and state regulations, interpersonal and computer skills.

Below are examples of DHS job classifications with high employee turnover rates in 2007:
Social Service Specialist A 25.6 percent
Child Welfare Specialist A 30.7 percent
Child Support Specialist A 42.6 percent

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