- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - More children were abused or neglected by foster parents in Oklahoma in 2015 than any other state in the nation, according to a federal report.

The child maltreatment report by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says there were 150 confirmed cases of children abused or neglected by Oklahoma foster parents in 2015, The Oklahoman reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2lyktz3 ). That’s 121 more than Texas, which has more than seven times as many people, and 34 more than California, which has 10 times as many as people.

“We all agree it’s too high,” said Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services. “We’ve got to bring this down. That’s what all of our efforts are focused on.”

High abuse and neglect numbers also were reported for children staying at Oklahoma’s group homes and residential facilities. The 62 confirmed maltreatment cases by staff at Oklahoma group homes and residential facilities were second only to Texas, which reported 111 incidents.

The numbers reflect data from federal fiscal year 2015, when Oklahoma was already into the fourth year of implementing a child welfare reform plan agreed upon as part of a settlement agreement to a Tulsa federal class-action lawsuit.

Early on, the state took steps to reduce the use of state shelters, add foster homes, add child welfare workers and reduce caseloads, measures expected to reduce incidents of children being abused and neglected in state care.

Jami Ledoux, DHS child welfare director, said that within the past year she has seen reason for optimism. The agency has developed a number of new programs designed to detect warning signs before abuse occurs and those programs are having an impact, she said.

“We’re still not anywhere close to where we want to be in terms of what that national standard is, but we have seen improvements for the last three consecutive reporting periods,” Ledoux said.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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