OKLAHOMA CITY —
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, families and former employees are moving forward with a class action lawsuit that was filed against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
They plan to sue the agency for what they call "failing to protect children."
"I heard it over and over and over and over again, and it's sort of, where there's smoke there's fire," attorney Rachel Bussett said.
Bussett represents more than a dozen people, including former DHS employees, who allege the state agency is blocking families from reuniting.
"No children died under my watch at that time, and then I have to get permission from somebody higher than me to remove children who have never been to the home, who haven't talked to the worker, and a child dies four months later," former DHS worker Heidi Stingley said.
Former employees, such as Stingley, claim they were wrongly terminated.
"The fact of the matter boils down to if something goes wrong, it's not upper management that made the decisions that are held accountable. It's the workers that had the concerns," former DHS caseworker Dahn Gregg said.
The former employees also allege DHS is violating a previous class action civil rights lawsuit the agency settled in 2012, which targeted its foster care system.
"Thorough reviews of the new cases presented to us found no evidence of improprieties," DHS officials said. "We are quite confident our actions have been justified, in the best interest of the children involved, and these allegations are without merit."
Members of the group involved in the lawsuit said they have a meeting scheduled for Friday with Gov. Kevin Stitt in an attempt to persuade him to make changes at DHS. They said they plan on filing the lawsuit this month.
Source : https://www.koco.com/article/lawsuit-against-dhs-claims-agency-failed-to-protect-children/27022833