MuniLand

Protecting the innocent from the darkness

By Cate Long
September 13, 2011

Generally speaking, America is a moral nation where citizens stop at stop signs and return their library books on time. But there is also a lot of abusive and illegal behavior that happens in the shadows. And nothing is more dark and harmful than the abuse and neglect of children. To protect children we have empowered the state to remove them from families and oversee their care. This government role is long enshrined and conservatives don’t even question its value.

To enforce this mandate we pay for social services and law enforcement. Our police agencies and child-welfare workers go into the dark corners of the society and confront often cruel and horrible circumstances. I’ve often thought this part of the “social safety net” was under appreciated and loosely monitored.

I started thinking about this when I read a story from The Oklahoman describing the rabble-rousing actions of a commissioner on the board of the state’s Department of Human Services. Commissioner Steven Dow is the only social services professional on the 9 member panel and was appointed by former Oklahoma governor Brad Henry in 2010.

Commissioner Dow has been agitating for the commission to step up scrutiny of the agency after a series of child deaths where staff of the DHS had oversight. From the Oklahoman:

Dow told The Oklahoman, “My calls for greater accountability and interest by the commission in even asking questions are met with a deafening silence. … I basically have gotten no response from most of the commissioners.”

Dow asked for special meetings after the 2010 death of Aja Johnson, 7, and the June death of Serenity Deal, 5.

He brought up five other children’s deaths in one of his requests for a meeting about Serenity.

DHS officials say child-welfare workers made mistakes in the girl’s case. Four workers were put on administrative leave. One committed suicide. Another resigned. The other two are in the process of being fired.

Oklahoma is one of the states that has had an overwhelming problem with meth labs, child abuse and neglect issues. The gruesome story involving meth in the video above from KWTV is unimaginable.

It’s nasty and brutal at the front lines of child protection. Commissioner Dow has every reason to beg his fellow commissioners to rev up oversight of the agency they serve. Keep rabble-rousing, Commissioner Dow, and bring some sunlight into that horrible darkness.

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