OKLAHOMA – A recently released federal report shows health and safety violations at the majority of Oklahoma’s group foster homes.
The unannounced visits to our state’s 22 group foster homes were conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General in June of 2016.
The report found some group homes are not always complying with state requirements.
The violations found ranged from a bald tire on a vehicle to a hole in the wall with exposed wires to brown and partially liquefied celery found in a refrigerator.
“We certainly expect them to get that improved immediately, because nobody wants to see kids in these conditions. You want to think – what if it was my child in those conditions?” said Joe Dorman, CEO of the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy.
Dorman said the most concerning things to him in the report are the safety issues.
“Seeing a bald tire, especially that bald in that condition, that’s unacceptable. You cannot let vehicles get in that shape,” Dorman said. “I noticed one seat belt was tied to a door. That means that child’s not properly restrained if they’re in that vehicle.”
“We feel like we have a very robust monitoring system for all of these licensed homes,” said Sheree Powell, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
DHS licenses the facilities and said they are checked three times a year.
One change they are making after the report is vehicles will be looked at even if they’re not there at the time of inspection.
“If the van is not there that they schedule a time to go back and look at that van to make sure that the vehicle is checked,” Powell said.
Some of the other violations included a swimming pool pump cover missing, a dimly lit hallway and an expired fire extinguisher.
Powell said the positive thing from the report is it found all 229 employees at the group homes had background checks completed.
“And, those background checks are critical to their health and safety, much more than brown celery in the fridge,” Powell said.
Five of the group foster homes had no violations during the federal visits.
The report did not specify which homes had which violations, but Powell tells us DHS is working on getting inspection reports for group foster homes online so anyone can look at them.