In The Know: Overcrowding could lead to forced closure of DHS children's shelter

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a state fire marshal’s agent is recommending that a DHS shelter for abused and neglected children in Oklahoma City be forced to close if persistent overcrowding problems cannot be resolved. A U.S. District Judge approved a class-action settlement agreement intended to create improvements to Oklahoma’s child-welfare system. Retiring DHS Director Howard Hendrick gave a parting interview to News 9.

Governor Fallin’s tax cut plan won approval from a House committee. OK Policy released a statement on troubling new details that have come to light about the Governor’s plan. The plan would create “tax cliffs,” so that earning one dollar more of income would cause taxes to increase by as much as $875. No other state does taxes in this way, and without the cliffs, the costs of the plan skyrocket to more than $1 billion in the first full year. reports on a prison riot last October in Sayre and what it tells us about Oklahoma’s private prison industry. The OK Policy Blog provides five reasons not to drug-test welfare applicants. The OK Gazette reported on the flurry of legislative proposals seeking to do this.

High school students who have failed new end-of-instruction exams came to the Capital to ask lawmakers to let them graduate. Oklahoma higher education officials said they’ve found effective ways of promoting campus diversity without considering race in the admissions process. Rep. Mike Shelton said he will try to keep alive the option for state employees to make charitable contributions through payroll deduction. Rep. George Faught has refused to consider the extension of this program in his committee.

The Number of the Day is the annual extra premium cost of adding a young adult to an employee’s family plan in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for Children and Families shows that the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program has enabled the lowest uninsured rate for children ever recorded.

In The News

Overcrowding could lead to forced closure of Oklahoma City children’s shelter

A state fire marshal’s agent is recommending that a DHS shelter for abused and neglected children in Oklahoma City be forced to close if persistent overcrowding problems cannot be resolved. The fire inspector visited the Pauline E. Mayer Children’s Shelter on Tuesday in response to a complaint and found 49 children in the facility that has a licensed capacity of 48. “This facility has shown a history of overcrowding,” the inspector reported. “If the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth is unable to enforce and/or correct this issue, it is the recommendation of this agent to seek a closure order from the attorney general’s office.” The fire marshal’s office warned DHS as recently as May that exceeding the licensed capacity created “a serious and immediate risk to the lives and life safety and welfare to all occupants and residents.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Judge OKs settlement on changes to Oklahoma child welfare system

After asking about the future role of the court, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell approved a class-action settlement agreement intended to create changes and improvements to Oklahoma’s child-welfare system. The decision was made during a fairness hearing Wednesday. The settlement reached in January between the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and New York-based nonprofit Children’s Rights creates a three-person panel to oversee progress in a plan addressing 15 areas, including caseload, number of placements and recruitment of foster homes. The monitors are independent and can bring orders of enforcement under federal arbitration law.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma DHS Director bids farewell

The director of the highly-criticized state agency, the Department of Human Services, gives his parting words, “I’ve done my best, ya know, I’m at peace with that and so it’s time to go take on another chapter.” Howard Hendrick’s last day was today, the same day a settlement for the children’s rights lawsuit is set to be approved. The director sat down for his last interview with News 9’s Lisa Monahan to discuss his tenure with the agency charged with protecting Oklahoma’s most vulnerable. High profile child deaths in abuse and neglect cases and the lawsuits following those tragedies created the public outcry. Most were asking for reform of the state agency and some calling for the DHS director’s job. Still, Howard Hendrick says the criticism has nothing to do with his retirement. “There’s no way anybody could be fully prepared for his job.”

Read more from News9.

Governor’s tax cut plan wins House committee approval

Gov. Mary Fallin’s personal income tax reduction plan cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday when a House committee voted to advance it to the full House for consideration. But her proposal, which calls for cutting the top personal income tax rate by nearly half, has a tough road ahead as lawmakers struggle to eliminate economic tax credits, some of which are necessary for her plan to succeed. The House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee voted 9-8 to defeat an amendment by Rep. Don Armes, R-Lawton, to remove a tax credit for the state’s wind industry from the measure, House Bill 3061. And the committee later voted not to pass HB 2876, which would have extended or imposed a two-year moratorium on 29 tax credits, which would have saved the state $29 million in the upcoming fiscal year and $37.3 million in the 2014 fiscal year. The author of the measure, Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, who led a five-month effort last year looking at tax credits, was able to salvage another measure, HB 2978, which sets criteria for tax credits to be issued, only by removing the ban on transferable tax credits; another House panel last week failed to pass a bill that would have outlawed six transferable credits.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Troubling new details on Governor Fallin’s plan from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Sayre prison riot shines light on private prison industry

On October 11 of last year, the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre erupted in violence. Scenes of inmates scrambling out of the mess hall as tear gas poured through the door were broadcast on the evening news. 500 miles away in Southern California, families of inmates waited by the computer for information. The North Fork prison houses 2,400 inmates, all from California. California started moving their inmates into for-profit facilities located out of state in 2007, following an executive order from then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Conditions in California prisons had become so overcrowded that the State Supreme Court ruled that they constituted cruel and unusual punishment. As a result of the relocation, inmates are isolated from family and friends hundreds of miles away, and the facility is often beyond the reach of instate oversight by the California Department of Corrections, who are still technically responsible and liable for inmates.

Read more from

Five reasons not to drug-test welfare applicants

Two bills that would require applicants for TANF benefits to submit to and pay for a drug test, HB 2388 and SB 1073, have cleared their first committees and are moving through the legislative process. TANF stands for ‘Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ but the program bears little resemblance to ‘welfare’ as most people imagine it. Welfare reform in 1996 drastically downsized and radically altered safety net cash assistance programs. Proponents of the bills argue that: (1) drug users shouldn’t be allowed to access public benefits and (2) that denying benefits through drug testing will save the state money. Both of these arguments are flawed. Here are five simple reasons not to drug-test welfare applicants.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Flurry of legislative proposals requires drug screening for public assistance from the OK Gazette

High school seniors ask lawmakers to let them graduate despite failing exam

High school students who have failed end-of-instruction exams pushed Wednesday for lawmakers to let them graduate. The students who came to the Capitol said they have passed the classes necessary to graduate but have failed one or more of the required exams. “The students walking the halls today have met all the requirements on a college prep curriculum but don’t have all four of the tests, so they will not get a high school diploma,” said Tenna Whitsel, Tulsa Public Schools’ student services coordinator for secondary schools. “No college. No military service. No hopes.” The House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed a measure that would allow students to graduate if they completed all the course work necessary, regardless of performance on the end-of-instruction exams.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma’s university leaders say they promote diversity without affirmative action

Oklahoma higher education officials say they’ve found effective ways of promoting campus diversity without considering race in the admissions process. The policy of using race as a factor in university admissions has been called into question in recent weeks when the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the case of Fisher v. Texas. Rather than taking race into account during the admissions process, University of Oklahoma Vice President and Registrar Matt Hamilton said, OU tries to promote itself as a place that welcomes students from all backgrounds. Its recruiters work to convey that message in high schools that traditionally have large ethnic minority populations, he said. According to 2010 demographic records, 5.1 percent of OU’s student population was black, while 4.4 percent of OSU’s students were black. Statewide, 7.4 percent of Oklahoma’s population was black, according to data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Read more from NewsOK.

Lawmaker says he will try to save state employees’ payroll deduction option

A lawmaker said Wednesday he will try to keep alive the option for state employees to make charitable contributions through payroll deduction. House Bill 2228, which would have extended the life of the Oversight Committee for State Employee Charitable Contributions, was not brought up by the House of Representatives Administrative Rules and Government Oversight Committee. Wednesday was the last day the committee could take up the measure. Rep. George Faught, the committee chairman, said he didn’t bring the bill up for a hearing because the charitable contributions committee isn’t an essential state service. Shelton said he would bring to the full House the issue of whether the committee should continue to operate.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

Firewatch is no longer allowed as an alternative to overcrowding.
Oklahoma Fire Marshall’s report stating that if chronic overcrowding does not end, the Oklahoma City children’s shelter operated by DHS must be shut down. Currently when the shelter is at overcapacity, the agency hires a a “fire watcher” to patrol the building.

Number of the Day


The annual extra premium cost of adding a young adult to an employee’s family plan in Oklahoma.

Source: Young Invincibles

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Public programs that work — good news on children’s coverage

Late last year, while official Washington and its pundits were busy deconstructing the failure of the “Super Committee” and the rest of us were planning our holiday celebrations, the National Center for Health Statistics quietly released its 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data. Among other things, the data contained good news about the nation’s health insurance coverage rates. In particular, the statistics around children’s coverage were remarkable. According to the NHIS, because of continued growth in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the percent of children under age 18 who were uninsured in the first half of 2011 was just 7.3 percent, down from 7.8 percent in 2010. This is the lowest uninsured rate for children ever recorded and represents a 47 percent decline since CHIP was enacted in 1997.

Read more from the Center for Children and Families.

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “In The Know: Overcrowding could lead to forced closure of DHS children's shelter

  1. I am not in favor of drug testing welfare patients. While a terrible addictive habit drug abuse can happen. We should not fail to provide the minimum public safety net even to those with an addiction.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.