OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — KFOR continues to press for answers over what many are calling systemic issues within the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, affecting some our state’s most vulnerable population: kids.
In an October hearing at the State Capitol, Bill and Lisa Woolley said their family’s nightmare began when an infant grandson passed away suddenly.
“The whole thing kicked off with my baby grandson dying in the nighttime, “ said Lisa.
While the family worked through their grief, Bill was accused of a horrific crime against their other grandson.
KFOR reported on the original case back in 2018. According to officials, during an autopsy, the state medical examiner discovered that the baby appeared to have been physically and sexually assaulted.
Further investigation and and interviews led authorities to believe the older grandson had also been abused.
Eventually, Bill and Lisa were booked into the Wagoner County jail.
Both were charged with felony sex crimes, according to court records: sex abuse of a child under 12 and enabling sex abuse of a child under 12.
Testifying before a crowd of lawmakers and other families, Bill said the allegations were never true.
“[My grandson] was questioned alone with several adults in the room,” said Bill.
“[My grandson] made no disclosures…in fact [he] actually said, ‘no one ever gets hurt in my home’,” he added.
“We’ve had five-and-a-half years of being stonewalled, blocked [but] we’ve reached out many times through many ways [to get help and answers],” Lisa said.
“Nobody will give us a chance to speak at all or fight for our grandson.”
By the time KFOR met the couple again earlier this month, cases against them had been filed and refiled several times over the years, according to court documents on Oklahoma State Courts Network.
The couple was hauling pounds of paper around.
They said it’s proof of what didn’t happen.
According to Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services website, the agency’s investigation protocol is meant to protect children and provide services to the family.
“[An] investigation is not just talking to your side of the people, An investigation is looking at the evidence relevant and not relevant and talking to anybody possible,” Lisa said.
However, Lisa and Bill said the evidence gathered and the methods in their case were inconsistent.
“When they investigated our stuff, they didn’t even talk to caregivers and I’m supposed to have assaulted these children,” added Bill.
The couple said their family life is still in limbo as they work to get their grandson back home.
“We’ve missed his birthdays, Christmases, we still have presents…” said Bill, trailing off.
“A whole closet full of presents,” Lisa finished.
Speaking at the same hearing in October, civil rights advocate, constitutionalist and litigator Tanawah Downing said Oklahoma’s situation is not unique.
“Unfortunately, what’s going on here [is happening] across the state, and it’s not just here in Oklahoma, it’s across the entire nation,” he explained.
“We’re going to start getting these families back home,” he continued.
Oklahoma lawmakers said they want to work towards legislative fixes or making sure the laws that already exist in the state are being followed.
“This is not a war, this is us telling stories,” said Sen. Shane Jett of the dozens of testimonies heard that day.
“[Let’s] solve these problems so nobody has to live through these nightmares again,” he said.
But in many cases, reunification for already fractured families or adoption can be a challenge.
In October 2023, 6,210 children were still in state custody, according to the Department of Human Services.
Of the children in care, 5,645 children (91%) were placed in a family setting and 565 children (9%) were placed in Congregate Care.
“The family [our grandson is with now] keeps him locked up. They don’t let him go out and play with other kids…that’s what he says,” the Woolleys said.
“We’d go to the earth and back again if it helped,” added Lisa.
In a prior statement to the station, Oklahoma Human Services said the agency is bound to state and federal confidentiality statutes that prevent them from publicly discussing the details of cases.