Families ask for lawmakers to confront DHS about foster care system problems

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Oklahoma Department of Human Services

OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s a debate between upset families, child welfare officials and state lawmakers.

What’s the policy when it comes to children being removed from their families and placed into the foster care system?

22 concerned families met lawmakers at the Oklahoma State Capitol to talk about their experience with the state’s child welfare system.

Many people said the system is flawed, but DHS claims they’re here to help.

“I would change so much if I could,” said Christopher Webb.

Christopher Webb said his kids were removed from his home in 2012.

“They were removed because I slapped my child,” said Webb.

While he admits he acted inappropriately, he said the Department of Human Services will not give him a second chance, keeping his children in protective custody for two and a half years.

“Since they’ve been removed, he’s been in 10 different foster homes, two behavioral hospitals and one group home and he asks me all the time, ‘Dad, why am I being punished?” said Webb.

At the State Capitol, lawmakers like Oklahoma Rep. Anastasia Pittman, said families are crying out for justice.

“We want our children to be safe in Oklahoma and we want families to stay together, that is the purpose of this,” said Pittman.

The founder of the Saving Our Families Coalition said the biggest issue is children being placed unjustly in the foster care system.

“DHS policy is to always give relatives preference. There have been a host of relatives who have been denied kinship placement and some of those children have been lost in the adoption system,” said Jackie Ledbetter, with the Saving Our Families Coalition.

DHS officials admit miscommunication sometimes does happen, but claim they’re here to listen.

“We are focused on our children and the safety of our children,” said Amy White, Bridge Deputy Director.

“Those children don’t deserve to be separated and they don’t deserve to be without me,” said Webb.