In January of 1978, the Terry D. v. Rader lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in Oklahoma City. The suit alleged abusive practices, unconstitutional use of isolation and restraints, the absence of adequately trained staff, and the mixing of offenders with non-offenders in state run shelters. Following the lawsuit, several public institutions were closed, and the Department of Human Services (DHS) implemented a variety of community-based programs for children and youth, including both residential and non-residential services.
Two entities were also formed to improve the conditions for children in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth (OCCY) and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA).
The mission of the OCCY is to improve services for children by facilitating joint planning and coordination among public and private agencies; independently monitoring the children and youth service system for compliance with established responsibilities; and entering into agreements to test models and demonstration programs for effective services. The programs under their operation are the Office of Juvenile System Oversight, the Office of Planning and Coordination, Children of Incarcerated Parents, the Post Adjudication Review Board and the Child Death Review Board. Appointed commissioners meet to consider proposals for improvements in state child welfare systems and submit recommendations to the Governor, Legislature, Supreme Court, and agencies responsible for developing or improving services to the children and youth of the State of Oklahoma. This is essentially a watchdog group monitoring the state’s various child welfare programs.
OICA was established by a group of citizens to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma. In particular, we work with and on behalf of children in state custody and children growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. OICA is a non-profit advocacy group that seeks to influence public strategy by working with policymakers outside the confines of government control.
OICA’s advocacy in action:
- Is Data-Driven – sharing the latest, most relevant data and research on key issues and indicators related to the well-being of children and youth through our KIDS COUNT data book program, in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- Promotes Best Practices – translating data and research into practice, and promoting best-practice program models and effective partnerships that achieve results through our various programs we administer.
- Changes Policies – using data, research, and partnerships to identify solutions and promote policy-making decisions through our Oklahoma Kids Legislative Analysis (OKLA) and other advocacy work.
The goal of OICA, quite simply, is to ensure that every child in Oklahoma – from birth to adulthood – is nurtured, healthy, educated, protected from harm, and thriving.
If you have a child welfare issue which needs investigation, please contact OCCY through https://www.ok.gov/occy/Contact_Us/index.html or at (405) 606-4900. If you would like to get involved in proactive work through OICA, sign up for our OKLA Alerts at oica.org or contact us at (405) 236-5437. Together, we can and will make a difference for the children of Oklahoma!
Joe Dorman serves as the CEO for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. The mission of OICA is to create awareness, take action and change policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.