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Oklahoma Human Services Announces Major Milestone in Pinnacle Plan

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Oklahoma Human Services has received the latest co-neutrals commentary for progress on the Pinnacle Plan, the state's foster care reform plan. During this reporting period, spanning from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2022, the co-neutrals determined Oklahoma Human Services has achieved two years of substantial and sustained progress on all 23 non-impacted performance measures. This finding relieves the agency of continued monitoring for these outcomes in all future co-neutral reports. However, Oklahoma Human Services remains committed to continued public reporting on these measures and positive momentum in service to Oklahoma’s children and families.

In the latest report, the co-neutrals praise Oklahoma as a “model child welfare system,” remarking on the agency’s commitment to self-correction, development of core strategies that quickly adapt to the changing needs of children and families interacting with the system and strengthening data systems to support decision-making and practice improvements.

“I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-family state in the nation, and I am proud of the leadership from Secretary Brown and Dr. Deb to make this a reality,” said Governor Stitt. “Oklahoma’s recognition as a model child welfare system is a testament to the great strides our state and foster care system have made towards prioritizing kids and making families whole.”

The agency worked collaboratively with the Plaintiffs and co-neutrals in 2021 to develop a COVID Recovery Period Agreement to pause the assessment of seven COVID-impacted measures where performance had been significantly affected by the pandemic. The majority of these measures focus on timely permanency for children after removal from their biological homes or who have become legally free after their parent’s rights have been terminated. Additionally, these measures look at performance related to the numbers of therapeutic foster homes available for children with significant behavioral health needs. This pause continues through this commentary period, with returned reporting near the end of the calendar year.

“Dr. Deb, Tricia Howell and the entirety of Child Welfare Services have worked tirelessly over the last decade to achieve this momentous milestone in the Pinnacle Plan,” said Justin Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Human Services. “I am grateful not only for their continued dedication to identify and remove barriers for the families we serve, but also to the leadership before them who began work on the Pinnacle Plan and planted seeds that are bearing fruit today. Our system is dramatically different than it was at the beginning of the plan; but our innovative, family-centered efforts will continue so we can truly serve families in the most effective, meaningful and impactful ways.”

Dr. Deborah Shropshire, Oklahoma Human Services Director, echoed her appreciation for the agency’s staff as well as continued dedication to serve children and families better in the years to come.

“We are celebrating this commentary because exiting these measures represents the tremendous work of staff across the state to improve outcomes for Oklahoma families,” said Dr. Deborah Shropshire, Oklahoma Human Services Director. “Still, we are relentlessly pursuing a system that serves all families’ unique needs in a way that is dignifying and brings hope for a brighter future. This work continues and also relies upon the incredible service of community partners and foster families who walk alongside the children and families we all serve together.”

Some particular highlights noted by the co-neutrals include:

  • achieving close to 100 percent caseload compliance statewide;
  • building the department’s capacity to recruit, support and retain family-based placements for children, including traditional and kinship foster homes;
  • transparently reporting maltreatment in care
  • eradicating the use of shelters to house the youngest children and significantly decreasing the use of shelters for children of all ages;
  • establishing thorough law and policy requirements to timely screen, respond to and investigate all reports of child abuse and neglect, including for children in congregate care;
  • heightening oversight and provider accountability to promote safe care of children placed in higher-level settings; and
  • establishing multiple-level caseworker and supervisor trainings, guidance and efforts to prioritize safety, stability, well-being and permanency for children in care.

“The backbone of our child welfare system are the staff and foster families who dedicate their lives in service to Oklahoma’s families,” said Tricia Howell, Child Welfare Services Director. “We need more individuals to step into this work, whether by becoming a child welfare specialist or new foster family. If you’ve ever considered how you can make a difference for the families in your community, we have a place for you. Your service could literally create the change you wish to see in the world.”

Foster families play a vital role in the child welfare system, offering a safe place for children while their families work to improve safety concerns. Oklahoma Human Services continues to need more foster families in every community across the state to serve children in state custody, particularly families who are willing to serve children with significant behavioral health needs. For more information about becoming a foster parent, visit or call 1-800-376-9729.

To learn about career opportunities where you can bring hope to your community, click the Careers tab at

About the Pinnacle Plan

In January 2012, Oklahoma Human Services settled a class-action lawsuit filed against its foster care system by a child advocacy group. As a result of this settlement, the agency created, and in SFY 2013 began to implement, the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan which was a measurable plan to improve the foster care system. Three out-of-state child welfare experts, referred to as "co-neutrals," issue reports every six months on Oklahoma Human Services’ progress and determine whether the agency has made good faith efforts to make improvements in the state's foster care system. This latest report covers Jan. 1 through June 30, 2022. With the Co-Neutrals’ finding the agency has achieved substantial and sustained progress toward the 23 Performance Area Measures not impacted by COVID, the agency is now dismissed from those measures for all future reports. However, the agency remains committed to report publicly on its performance. The 19 co-neutral commentaries along with the agency’s reports can be found on the Oklahoma Human Services website.

Last Modified on Mar 22, 2023
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