Archive for 2013

Upcoming Event: New Director to give Policy & Practice Series lecture on future of DHS

by | January 31st, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

EdLakeThe new director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), Ed Lake, will speak at the next installment of the Practice and Policy Lecture Series on Monday, February 11th, from noon to 1 pm, at the Oklahoma History Center. Director Lake will share with listeners his plan for the state’s largest agency and discuss the new transformations to be made, such as the new Pinnacle Plan.

On November 1, 2011, Ed Lake became OKDHS’s new executive director. Director Lake has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina and over 35 years of experience working for the Tennessee Department of Human Services. During his employment, he oversaw extensive agency restructuring, managed over 5,000 employees, and improved agency services.  Last year, Director Lake retired from the Tennessee department as deputy commissioner.

All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information contact the Office of Planning, Research and Statistics at 405-521-3552. View the complete lecture series lineup here

 

Upcoming Event: Does marriage education work?

by | November 26th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The OKDHS Practice and Policy Lecture Series hosts Dr. Scott Stanley on December 10th to discuss the results of a long-term study of the effectiveness of marriage education.  Dr. Stanley has been involved in the research, development and refinement of the marriage education program PREP, Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, for more than 30 years. 

Dr. Scott Stanley is a research professor and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. He has published widely with research interests including commitment, communication, conflict, confidence, risk factors for divorce, prevention of marital distress and couple development.  The OK Policy Blog previously featured a guest blog post from Scott Stanley about the Family Expectations Program, which is part of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.  We also posted an OK Policy Roundtable on whether or not the state of Oklahoma should be promoting marriage as a solution to poverty.

All lectures are free and open to the public.  For more information contact the Office of Planning, Research and Statistics at 405-521-3552View the complete lecture series lineup here.

SQ 765: Are voters being asked to do away with DHS?

by | September 18th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, State Questions | Comments (2)

Are Oklahoma voters being asked to do away with the Department of Human Services in a referendum this November? This was not the intent of legislators in sending State Question 765 to a popular vote, but ambiguities in the legislation and ballot title language make it appear as if the Department itself could be abolished if voters approve SQ 765.

SQ 765 emerged in the wake of the state’s negotiated settlement of the child welfare lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS).  The settlement involved a series of sweeping reforms to improve the child welfare system, which have been incorporated into the agency’s Pinnacle Plan. Although the settlement did not directly mandate changes in agency governance, the long-standing deficiencies in the child welfare system brought to light by the lawsuit suggested, in the words of House Speaker Kris Steele, that “the system has been struggling under an outdated, ineffective governance model that has tended to isolate the agency from any real accountability.”

continue reading SQ 765: Are voters being asked to do away with DHS?

What welfare? No safety net for Oklahoma's poorest children

by | July 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (5)

Welfare as most people imagine it doesn’t actually exist anymore.  Public discourse conjures images of lazy people scamming the system and living large off their monthly government check.  It’s a popular, but wildly inaccurate narrative.  Welfare reform in the mid-1990s gutted funding for cash-benefit assistance and radically downsized what had been the nation’s central anti-poverty program.  This post shows that the new welfare, dubbed ‘Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ (TANF), is simply unavailable to the vast majority of very-low income or chronically unemployed Oklahoma families with children.

When poverty-assistance was reformed in 1996 to emphasize ‘welfare-to-work,’ TANF programs were intended, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes “to help move adult cash-assistance recipients into the paid labor market and to provide a safety net for families when they cannot work.”  In 1996, Oklahoma’s TANF program averaged about 37,000 cases each month; today, it’s averaging about 9,000.  Clearly, welfare reform succeeded in reducing rolls and limiting parents access to cash-assistance and other benefits.

continue reading What welfare? No safety net for Oklahoma's poorest children

A step sideways: Bill to drug-test welfare applicants gets a make-over

by | May 17th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (0)

A bill to clarify drug-screening procedures for TANF applicants has passed both chambers of the legislature and been signed by Governor Fallin.  TANF, or ‘Temporary Assistance for Needy Families,’ is a temporary public benefit that provides cash assistance and other support to very low-income parents with children.  We’ve expressed grave concern about previous incarnations of this bill, and we still believe that targeting a tiny public benefit program reflects misplaced priorities and perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes about the poor.  However, the much-improved final version of HB 2388 corrects key flaws from the original bill and its authors, Sen. David Hold and Rep. Guy Leibmann, should be commended for making common-sense changes.

The final version of HB 2388 improves upon the original proposal in two fundamental ways.  First, the final version of HB 2388 doesn’t actually require drug-testing as a mandatory condition of receiving TANF benefits.  Instead, it codifies existing drug-screening procedures, explicitly mandating a process the TANF program was already using to identify applicants with substance abuse issues.  For at least a decade, DHS has contracted with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to conduct screenings of TANF applicants through the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) tool.  The screening tool is administered by substance abuse professionals and is highly accurate in identifying both alcohol and drug abuse.  If, after administering the screen, case workers suspect drug-use, they can request a chemical drug test for the applicant.

continue reading A step sideways: Bill to drug-test welfare applicants gets a make-over

Upcoming Event: The Senior Safety Net in Jeopardy, OKDHS Policy & Practice Lectures

by | May 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The recession has had a devastating impact on the economic well-being of low income senior citizens, particularly people of color.  The ongoing debate over the future of Social Security and Medicare leaves seniors living near the poverty line with an uncertain future.  The OKDHS Policy and Practice Lecture Series will host Karyne Jones, President and CEO of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, to discuss the growing economic threats faced by low income elderly African Americans.  The presentation will also address  disparities that African-Americans and other minorities still face in terms of treatment, access and affordability.  She will discuss the impact of the Affordable Care act on seniors, particularly for minority seniors and, if changes are not addressed now, the economic impact it will have.

continue reading Upcoming Event: The Senior Safety Net in Jeopardy, OKDHS Policy & Practice Lectures

A Rock and a Hard Place: 'Asset-tests' and Oklahoma's poor

by | May 1st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (0)

The federal ‘Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations‘ (FDPIR) program provides food assistance to low-income Native American households living in Indian Country.  Many households participate in FDPIR as an alternative to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly the food stamp program, because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or grocery stores.  The agency that administers the tribal food program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), recently proposed new regulations that would eliminate the program’s ‘asset test’, currently set at $2,000-$3,250.

continue reading A Rock and a Hard Place: 'Asset-tests' and Oklahoma's poor

Upcoming Event: An Improvement Plan for OKDHS Child Welfare Services

by | April 16th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

The next installment of the Practice and Policy Lecture Series, sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), will present Oklahoma’s plan to improve child welfare services.  On Friday April 20th, Deborah Smith, Director of OKDHS Children and Family Services, will summarize the efforts planned to improve outcomes for Oklahoma’s 8,000 children in foster care including improving safety, increasing the number of foster homes, and decreasing the length of stay.  The ‘Pinnacle Plan‘ is a key component in settling a federal class action lawsuit.

The lecture will discuss OKDHS’s commitment to:

  • equity, where all children, youth and families have access to and receive unbiased treatment and services.
  • keeping children safe with their families through prevention services, kinship placements and timely reunification whenever possible.
  • ensuring every child is safe while in out-of-home care and custody by matching them with an appropriate, supportive family who can provide for their safety and wellbeing.
  • recruiting, retaining, and supporting the best child welfare staff and ensuring they have manageable caseloads and workloads.
  • engaging local communities in improving child welfare outcomes.

Deborah G. Smith, M.S.W., was appointed the Director of OKDHS Children and Family Services Division in 2010 and has worked in child welfare services since 1998. She has expertise in child protective services, permanency planning, foster care, the CFSR process, program improvement plans, supervisor case reviews, and the use of data to inform practice and policy.

All lectures are free and open to the public. OKDHS staff can receive training credit for this event. CEUs are available for social workers. For more information contact the Office of Planning, Research and Statistics at 405-521-3552.

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012, NOON TO 1 P.M.
OKLAHOMA HISTORY CENTER, CHESAPEAKE ROOM

Click here to pre-register.

Upcoming Event: "Tell me a Story: The Reality of Oklahoma’s Children of Incarcerated Parents," February 17th

by | February 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

The next installment of the Practice and Policy Lecture Series, sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), will focus on the children of incarcerated parents.  “Tell me a Story:  The Reality of Oklahoma’s Children of Incarcerated Parents,” will be Friday, February 17, from Noon to 1 p.m in the Chesapeake Room of the Oklahoma History Center at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in Oklahoma City. The event features Cheri Fuller, Executive Director of Redeeming the Family, who will bring to light some of the challenges facing children whose mothers are incarcerated as well as share an innovative model for keeping families connected.

continue reading Upcoming Event: "Tell me a Story: The Reality of Oklahoma’s Children of Incarcerated Parents," February 17th

Play It Again: The cliff effect – "Sorry, I can't afford that raise"

by | June 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Children and Families | Comments (1)

Last week, the Department of Human Services announced new co-payment and eligibility rules for the child care subsidy program, which we discussed in this post. By lowering the eligibility threshold for subsidies, the new rules will worsen the “cliff effect” whereby workers with the opportunity to move up the income ladder are penalized by losing work support benefits. Here we rerun a blog post on this subject that first appeared in June 2009; we have also discussed how health care reform promises to significantly improve the situation.

In recent years, whenever I’ve participated in forums on poverty and barriers to self-sufficiency, the single barrier raised most often and most fervently by those who work with low-income individuals and by low-income individuals themselves is the “cliff effect”. A 2007 report prepared for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Women and Family action Network Coalition defined the cliff effect as follows:

Eligibility for work support benefits is typically based on income, so as their earnings increase, families lose eligibility for supports. A benefit cliff occurs when just a small increase in income leads to the complete termination of a benefit. The result is that parents can work and earn more, while their families end up worse off than they were before.

continue reading Play It Again: The cliff effect – "Sorry, I can't afford that raise"

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3