National experts are asking a judge to order the closing of the Laura Dester Children's Center and remove all foster children in the next month.
Three years ago, the Laura Dester Children's was supposed to close, but it remains open.
The center is for children rescued from abused and neglected homes until a more permanent foster home is found.
A Better Childhood, which is a child advocacy group, says the experts who filed the request are monitoring Oklahoma's progress in a class-action foster care lawsuit.
“It is the mission of DHS to keep children safe. DHS has already committed to the closure of LDCC as a shelter for children in foster care," DHS said in a statement to 2 Works for You. "The agency has previously and completely ceased admissions, and continues its diligent efforts to transition the remaining children into placements that meet their individual and complex needs.”
The experts said they found that "in the six months from October 2106 to March 2017, one child was reported to have been abused or neglected while there but that in the six months from October 2017 to March 2018, the number of children reported as victims at the shelter had risen to 10, and eight of those incidents occurred between January and March 2018."
This is the first time in seven years the experts have asked the Department of Human Services to stop placing children in a shelter immediately.
“We are very concerned about the children at the Laura Dester Shelter and the state’s inability to care for them,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, Executive Director of A Better Childhood. “The state of Oklahoma has exacerbated this situation by placing only children with the greatest problems at the shelter and then failing to move them into appropriate placements with staff who are specially trained to care for these children. This reflects the state’s continuing failure to plan for the placement of special needs children. The only solution is to prohibit the placement of any more children at Laura Dester and to close intake immediately. But at least as important, the state has got to begin planning for these children, and all the others who will continue to need placement.”
The experts want the shelter to close by June 30.
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