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 commited 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 commentary from the co-neutrals issued in July 2022 and covering a six-month period ending December, 2021, “DHS made good faith efforts to achieve substantial and sustained progress toward the Target Outcomes in all 23 Performance Area Measures for which the Co-Neutrals are required to render a determination.” Due to the impact of Covid-19, in 2021 the parties negotiated a temporary “COVID Recovery Period Agreement”, under which the co-neutrals agreed to suspend rendering a judgment with respect to DHS’ good faith efforts regarding seven additional performance measures that were designated as “Delayed Performance Area Measures”.