The Pinnacle Plan was developed and implemented by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) to reform the state’s child welfare system. The plan, announced in July 2012, emerged out of a settlement agreement reached in a federal class action lawsuit (D.G. v. Yarbrough) challenging the state’s treatment of children in foster care. The system was faulted for allowing abuse of children in its care, placing children in overcrowded and understaffed emergency shelters, and failing to provide secure and long-term placements, among other concerns.
Under the settlement agreement, a team of three independent experts, known as the “co-neutrals,” were granted formal authority to approve the agency’s plan and monitor its implementation. The approved Pinnacle Plan laid out “a five-year roadmap of significant commitments.” The Pinnacle Plan commits DHS to meet measurable improvements in five major areas: foster care safety, resource homes, worker contacts, shelter use, and worker caseload. Because the state did not meet the terms of the settlement agreement within five years, its duration has been extended indefinitely.
According to a report from the co-neutrals issued in January 2020 and covering a six-month period ending June, 2019, DHS had demonstrated good-faith efforts in 28 of 30 performance areas. However, the report expressed serious concerns about the long-term drop in the number and quality of therapeutic foster care placements for children with behavioral challenges or intellectual disabilities.