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Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy 2016 Legislative Session Highlights For Children, Youth and Families



The Department of Human Services Pinnacle Plan:  The FY 2017 budget includes SB 694, which requires the Department of Human Services to appropriate funds to be used for certain programs. The bill states that $119.8 million must be used on Phase One, Two, Three, and Four of the Pinnacle Plan and it must fully fund the Developmental Disabilities Services programs and services, along with a multitude of other programs. The agency lost more than $44 million in state funding last fiscal year so the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is looking to put a hold on the funding increase for foster families.

Guardianship for Deprived Children: Legislation passed HB 2431, which prohibits guardianship if prospective guardian is not eligible for foster or adoptive placement is subject to the Oklahoma Sex Offenders Registration Act.

Termination of Parental Rights: Legislation passed HB 2483, that a party who requests a jury trial and fails to appear in person for such trail, after proper notice and without good cause, may be deemed by the court to have waived the right to such jury trail, and the termination of parental rights shall be by nonjury trial unless another party demands a jury trial or the court determines on its own motion to try the case to a jury.

Certain Child Abuse and Neglect Reports: Legislation passed HB 2491 and SB 1370, directing the Department of Human Services to notify the designated federal authorities at the federal military installation where the active duty service member is assigned that the Department has received a report that such child may be abused, neglected or drug-endangered and the Department shall notify a United States Department of Defense family advocacy program that there is an investigation into the parent or guardian.

Custody and Placement of Siblings in Foster Care: Legislation passed HB 2621, allowing siblings to be separated if the court and the Department of Human Services find: a) one sibling has resided in a foster family home for six (6) or more months and has established a relationship with the foster family, b) the siblings have never resided in the same home together or there is no established relationship between the siblings c) placement of siblings together would be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings, and d) it is in the best interests of the child to remain in the current foster family home placement.

Child Abuse Reporting: Legislation passed HB 2965, prohibiting governing body or entity from interfering with reporting obligation; permitting recovery of damages, costs and fees by specified party.

Death and Near Death of Children with Disabilities: Legislation passed HB 2971, creating the Child Welfare Review Committee for the Death and Near Death of Children with Disabilities. The purpose of the committee is to study the deaths and near deaths of children with disabilities who had previous child welfare involvement or are in the custody of DHS. The measure provides that meetings of the committee will not be open to the public and its records will be confidential. Finally, the committee is required to issue a report of its findings, with any confidential information redacted, to the Legislature and Governor by December 1, 2018.

Guardianship:  Legislation passed SB 902, which prohibits any state court from granting guardian status to a noncitizen or illegal resident of the United States for the care of a minor or incapacitated individual unless the court determines that there are no individuals with such qualifications and that it is in the best interest of the minor or incapacitated individual to be placed under the care of a person without such qualifications.

Foster Care Recommendations from 2015 KIDS COUNT Conference
·         Convene key stakeholders to create a primary focus and message
·         Require wraparound support services for foster families
·         Require mental health awareness training for foster children and bio parents
·         Create more preventative services for bio families (drug/alcohol abuse, mental illness, parenting skills, legal representation)
·         Decisions relating to emergency care for foster children
·         Strengthen the enforcement of kinship placements
·         Give adoptive parents the same identity rights of adopted children
·         Open adoptions being legal


Early Childhood

Child Care Advisory Committees: Legislation passed SB1211, modifying requirements of advisory committees appointed by the Department of Human Services for subcommittees to make recommendations of best practices in licensing standards for child care centers, family child care homes, residential child care facilities and group homes.

Child Care Facilities: Legislation passed SB 1273, prohibiting equipment and placement of children in certain areas. Child Care facilities or family child care homes shall not use soft or loose bedding, including, but not limited to, blankets, in sleeping equipment or in sleeping areas used only for infants; allow toys or educational devices in sleeping equipment or in a sleeping area used only for infants; or lace a child in sleeping equipment or in a sleeping area which has not been previously approved for use as such by the Department.

Child Care Director Educational Requirements: Legislation passed SB 1554, requiring a person with a bachelor’s degree or postgraduate degree to be considered as having met the Department of Human Services’ educational requirements for a director of a full-time child care center. It requires licensed child care facilities opened or expanded before November 1 to have 35 square feet of floor area per infant in rooms occupied only by infants.

Early Childhood Programs: Legislation passed HB 2404,  giving the Oklahoma Department of Education the authority to promulgate rules to create exemptions relating to the maximum age at which a child may attend half-day or full-day early childhood programs.



Early Childhood Recommendations From 2015 KIDS COUNT Conference:

·         Governor to appoint Child Czar to the Health and Human Services Cabinet
·         Work with Smart Start to develop strategic plan and goals for Oklahoma’s early childhood services
·         Develop advocacy and information plan on early childhood and childcare
·         Partner with early childhood national organizations and engage in political process


Economic Well-Being

Poverty: Legislation passed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) HB 1604, making the EITC non-refundable beginning January 2016.

Income Tax Credit: Legislation passed HB 1605, which relates to prohibiting child care tax credit.

Child Support: Legislation passed HB 1327, which relates to The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

Employee Benefits: Legislation failed to pass HB 2686, which related to parental short-term disability program.

ABLE Accounts:  Legislation passed HB 2821, which creates the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings Plan Program.

Discriminatory Wages: Legislation failed to pass HB 2929, to prevent gender-based pay discrimination.


Poverty Recommendations From 2015 KIDS COUNT Conference:
·         Repeal the ban on municipalities raising the minimum wage, or raise the State’s minimum wage
·         As wages increase, DHS benefits should gradually decrease (sliding scale)
·         Increase access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion
·         Improve recruitment/retention of healthcare providers through incentive programs


Homelessness among Children and Youth: Legislation passed SB1369, directing the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to include in its annual report regarding the development and improvement of services provided to children and youth recommendations for improvement of services to youth at risk of homelessness and runaways. This bill also includes a definition of “Homeless Children and Youth”.


·         Economic incentives for property managers to lease to children, youth and families
·         Extension of foster care to 21 instead of 18
·         “Living Wage” minimum wage


Mental Health & Substance Abuse

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services received $324.8 million for the upcoming fiscal year, 2.57 percent increase from its revised FY2016 appropriations.


Accreditation standards for education services: Legislation passed HB 2969,  directing the State Board of Education to adopt  standards for accreditation relating to the provision of education services provided in partial hospitalization programs, day treatment programs, day hospital programs, residential treatment programs and emergency shelter programs for persons between the ages of three and twenty-one years of age.


Inpatient Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment of Minors Act: Legislation passed SB 1217, which relates to definitions of “Minor in need of treatment”. The mental health substance abuse history of the minor may be used as part of the evidence to determine whether the minor is a minor in need of treatment and the mental health or substance abuse history of the minor shall not be the sole basis for this determination.  The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment of Minors Act added physician assistant.


Recommendations From 2015 KIDS COUNT Conference
·         Require evidence-based/evidence-informed behavioral health interventions for children receiving highest levels of care
·         Require Oklahoma college/university social science programs(i.e., psychology, counseling, social work) require at least 3 credit hours on the impact of trauma and what qualifies as evidence-based/evidence-informed treatment
·         Require standard transition plans for children/adolescents discharging from acute levels and residential treatment that require 6 contacts with family
·         Oklahoma tax commission will rescind the license of any vendor selling beer 3 times to minors for at least 6 months


Health & Safety

During this Legislation Session the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) postponed a vote that would have reduced Medicaid reimbursement rates by 25 percent.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health received $54.9 million for Fiscal Year 2017, which is a 2.5 percent appropriations reduction from last year’s appropriations. Since the appropriations are much greater that the agency anticipated, OSDH will restore some of the funding for the Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP) and the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

Sports Related Injuries: Legislation passed SB 1164, directing the State Department of Health to create on its website a concussion management section to provide the guidelines necessary for a school district board of education and youth sports organization to develop their own policies and procedures pertaining to a concussion and head injury.

Victim Protection Order: Legislation passed HB 2399, which creates the Alyssa D. Wiles Act; authorizing immediate family members to seek victim protection orders.

Medical Treatment of Minors: Legislation passed HB 2518, which relates to consent on behalf of a minor.

Medicaid Eligibility: Legislation failed to pass HB 2665, which related to eliminating Medicaid eligibility for non-pregnant able-bodied adults under the age of sixty-five.

Humanity of the Unborn Child Act: Legislation passed HB 2797, requires the State Department of Health to develop, update annually and maintain an electronic form containing information concerning public and private agencies and services available to assist a woman through pregnancy, upon childbirth and while the child is dependent.

Children Diagnosed with Autism: Legislation passed HB 2962, which requires insurance providers to cover services for children diagnosed with autism.

Immunization: Governor vetoed HB 3016, which related to creating the parental rights Immunization Act and Legislation override vetoed failed.

Office of Juvenile Affairs

The Office of Juvenile Affairs received flat funding for Fiscal Year 2017.  The agency will be working with a $92 million of state appropriations plus federal and state grants give them a total of $106.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

Charter Schools: Legislation passed SB 1069, which requires the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to assist the OJA in operating charter schools.

Juvenile Detention: Legislation passed SB 1200, which modifies language relating to an adjudicated child in need of supervision and who has violated a court order.

Detention Facilities: Legislation passed SB 1371, which relates to the Juvenile Detention Improvement Revolving Fund and deleting certain reimbursement rate.

National Criminal History Records Search: Legislation passed SB 1424, requires the OJA to require national criminal history records searches.


The second regular session of the 55th Legislature managed to pass a flat budget at the revised FY 2016 level for PreK-12 public schools. However, The State Board of Education approved $38.2 million in mandated cuts to line item Support of Public School Activities Budget.  These cuts effect initiatives ranging from professional develop to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. The lack of appropriated dollars for textbooks will pose serious challenges for school districts in Oklahoma.





There were a number of major initiatives signed into law that will benefit public education this next fiscal year.


School District’s Discipline Policy: Legislation passed SB 911, which permits school boards to adopt a procedure that requires students to perform campus-site service for violating the district’s discipline policy. It provides exceptions for student under 8 and for students on an IEP.

2016 Workforce Oklahoma Academic High School Diploma Act: Legislation passed SB 929,  which allows students beginning with the 2020-2021 high school graduating class, who have met all requirements for graduation and have demonstrated mastery of the state academic content standards, and who have participated in an approved program of study leading to a recognized career and/or postsecondary education pathway, to be eligible for a certain graduation recognitions on their standard diploma, as established by this act.

Standard Diploma by School District:  Legislation passed SB 1105, Students denied a standard diploma by the school district may re-enroll in the same school district and be provided remediation or intervention and the opportunity to complete the curriculum units or sets of competencies required to obtain a standard diploma.

Posting of Child Abuse toll-free telephone number:  Legislation passed HB 2432; requiring public schools to post a sign containing certain child abuse toll-free telephone number information that is readily accessible to students.

School Suspension:  Legislation passed HB 2614, which relates to out-of-school suspension; adding certain act for which a student may be removed from the regular school setting for educational services.

Humanity of the Unborn Child Act:  Legislation passed HB 2797, contingent on the availability of funds, the State Department of Education, in collaboration with the State Department of Health, shall establish an instructional program for students consistent with the provisions of the Humanity of the Unborn Child Act.

Modifying School Testing Requirements:  Legislation passed HB 3218, which high school students will no longer have to pass four of seven end-of instruction exams to receive a diploma. High school students will be given a single comprehensive assessment aligned with the state’s new academic standards and a nationally recognized college readiness exam, such as the ACT.

There were three (3) Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) Red Tape Task Force bills signed by the governor this legislative session that will change reporting of students who drop out of school (SB 1004), school hour policy (HB 2544) and school days counted for attendance purposes in any 24-hour period (HB 2649).


In addition, Legislation passed seven bills addressing teacher shortages: HB 2371, HB 2946HB 2967, HB 3025, HB 3012, HB 3114, and SB 1038.

Recommendations From 2015 KIDS COUNT Conference
·         Advocate for a strong system of services for young children and their families
·         Sustain excellent programs instead of cutting them, i.e., domestic violence, mental health & substance abuse services, home visitation programs, etc.
·         Advocate for improving healthy parent and child relationships, early intervention, health care education, and, strengthening families and connecting them with community resources, to meet the needs of children and their families 
·         Advocate for the necessary supports to at-risk children and their families by funding programs that focus around early childhood initiatives and continue with evidence-based home visiting programs
·         Organize a voting registration drive for high-risk families that receive services, followed by an empowerment campaign.


2016 Legislative Session 6-27-16

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