- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Plaintiffs in a now-settled lawsuit say not enough progress is being made to improve the foster care system in Oklahoma.

The Pinnacle Plan is an agreement to the lawsuit filed by the New York-based nonprofit group Children’s Rights, which claimed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services had policies that led to the harm of abused and neglected children in state custody.

The plan has a list of specific improvements that should be met by 2017, with goals to reach along the way. Monitors of the plan have given mixed verdicts in the agency’s success in meeting the benchmarks.

Plaintiffs have written a letter to the monitors in an effort to spur faster change, seeking them to intervene and start an arbitration process for the parties to work out the disputes, the Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1T14thr ) reported.

Department spokeswoman Sheree Powell said it has until June 9 to submit a written response to the letter.

The agency has been behind in attracting new foster homes, and plaintiffs contend that it has resulted in more shelter use for older children. They add it contributes to a lack of finding permanent homes for children.

“Permanency is critically important to children, and the state’s lack of success in achieving acceptable outcomes is probably influenced by both the unavailability of appropriate foster homes and by excessive caseloads,” the letter states.

When the plan was agreed upon, it was estimated that it would cost $30 million the first year and rise each year until the fifth year when funding would be increased to $100 million per year. The plan is now in its third year.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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