“Lisa Smith is the former Executive Director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth (OCCY). She served as its Director for nine years and before that served OCCY as an oversight specialist and its Assistant Director. She has devoted her career to public service on behalf of disadvantaged children and youth. Before her tenure at OCCY, Ms. Smith worked as a child welfare worker and supervisor at OKDHS and a grants manager and internal monitor at the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA).
In addition to the important monitoring and oversight work of OCCY, during her tenure as Director of OCCY, Ms. Smith spearheaded a number of important initiatives for the benefit of Oklahoma children. Lisa was instrumental in getting the Oklahoma legislature to enact the Kelsey Smith-Briggs Child Protection Reform Act, which initially enabled both the judiciary and the Human Services Director to request OSBI assistance in complicated or political child abuse cases. Through her lobbying efforts, OCCY was added to the entities that could request OSBI involvement. This law has resolved several complicated abuse cases under Ms. Smith’s OCCY tenure.
Under SB 790, effective in 2007, OCCY’s role in investigating and releasing information concerning child abuse deaths or near-deaths was expanded. Ms. Smith utilized this law to make public eighty-one public reports on the deaths or near-deaths of child abuse victims, including the tragic case of Serenity Deal that garnered such public outcry. This public reporting highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses in the system and has led to major child welfare reforms statewide. One of these reforms was the creation of the Oklahoma Special Review Committee at OKDHS to examine the systemic changes needed to reduce child abuse deaths. Ms. Smith served on this Committee.
Under Ms. Smith’s guidance, the Multidisciplinary Teams on Child Abuse and Neglect were significantly expanded within OCCY. In addition, her advocacy helped create the Children of Incarcerated Parents Task Force within OCCY. The Task Force has connected many children with incarcerated parents to needed services. Finally, Ms. Smith was instrumental in identifying and addressing a significant need among youth adjudicated delinquent and placed in secure facilities. Many youth in Oklahoma’s secure institutions seemed unable to comprehend the requirements of the treatment plans that were developed for them. OCCY, under Ms. Smith’s leadership, identified a significant number of incarcerated youth with developmental disabilities and serious mental health issues. To address this problem, Ms. Smith recognized that Oklahoma was the only state in the country that did not have any laws to address juvenile competency. She worked with the legislature to develop juvenile competency standards, and in 2015 the legislature enacted legislation establishing such standards in the area of mental health, developmental disability, and developmental immaturity. Recognizing that lean budget times would require an existing agency to assume responsibility for implementing the new standards, Ms. Smith volunteered to have OCCY fill that role. Since the enactment of the standards, OCCY has arranged for 46 forensic evaluations of youth. Of those 46 youth, only 12 were found competent to adjudicated delinquent.
Lisa Smith’s career-long commitment to advocacy for abused, neglected, and delinquent youth is deserving of recognition.”