OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State legislators and a crowd of Oklahoma families and advocates addressed what they believe are widespread problems with Oklahoma’s Departments of Human Services Wednesday.
“We heard from case after case about kids being left in abusive, sexually abusive homes. We’ve heard case after case of people being put into foster care , that sounds like for money. Again, these are things that we have to look into. These are things that we as Oklahomans cannot accept,” said Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane.
Humphrey held the conference with Sen. Dana Prieto, R-Tulsa to shed light on critical matters affecting our state’s most vulnerable populations: kids.
Amid hours of testimony by Oklahoma families, many said the protocol ‘see something, say something’ led to unfounded allegations that caused their families’ harm.
“My kids don’t know what happened to me. My last visit was in March 2022 and my son said I’ll see you on Monday mama, that was 85 Mondays ago,” said Brianna Wild, Tulsa County.
“I’ve been threatened three times by two different case workers, ,I’ve been cussed out, mocked, laughed at…they [the department] have ignored and suppressed all evidence from the professionals that would prove my innocence,” she added.
Others claimed Oklahoma’s DHS is prone to knee jerk reactions and a track record of laws not being followed.
“When they investigated our stuff, they didn’t even talk to caregivers and I’m supposed to have assaulted these children?” said Bill Woolley, who testified about allegations of sexual abuse involving his grandchildren against him.
“There’s a problem,” he added.
“We’ve been praying for 5 1/2 years for an opportunity to finally, finally, finally be heard by DHS,” added his wife Lisa, adding that independent experts have determine that the family is not considered a danger to the children.
“Don’t talk, just listen, and look at evidence,” she added.
Representative Justin ‘J.J.’ Humphrey said he hoped the agency would hear the stories in person.
But the department did not attend. Instead, sending the station the following statement:
Oklahoma Human Services is bound to state and federal confidentiality statutes that prevent us from publicly discussing the details of cases. Our participation in a public meeting of this type would not only risk the sharing of confidential information, but because of that, would also not create productive outcomes for either the families or the agency. The facts and circumstances of each case guide the decision making of Oklahoma Human Services and all others who participate in a case, such as law enforcement, district attorneys and the courts, among others. The agency remains committed to protecting the safety of Oklahoma’s children.Oklahoma Human Services
“[DHS] Director, you missed a great opportunity to walk into a room and say that didn’t happen on your watch. The you are not responsible for that, but you’re here to fix the problem. I think that would spoke volumes to this group,” said Humphrey.
That was also disappointing to hear for Keifer and Bea Retherford to hear, after their graphic testimonies of their young son’s sex abuse, allegedly at the hands of his biological father.
“At five he’s telling me ‘I want to kill myself because I can’t… I don’t want to do this anymore and I don’t want to go back to my dada’s house, his father’s house ’,” Keifer Retherford said.
“And, you know, whenever I called DHS to tell them about this and they say, ‘okay, we’ve taken notes, thank you. And they hang up…there’s no recourse,” he added.
Bea said the allegations of chronic sex abuse by their now six-year-old are against her ex-husband, who has full custody.
“I fully believe that DHS doesn’t want to take responsibility for what they know is being done wrong and children are being served a huge injustice,” she said.
“We want to collaboratively come together to say here are some things we’re seeing organically from our district [and] we want to help you solve the problem through legislative fixes,” said Sen. Shane Jett, (R) – Shawnee.
As of October 1, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services said they have more than 6,000 kids in state custody.
More than 57,000 investigations were conducted within the last year and nearly 14,000 were substantiated.