News Releases

Child Advocacy Organization to Celebrate 40th Anniversary

April 13, 2023


Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117


OKLAHOMA CITY – From the ashes of one of the worst child maltreatment scandals in U.S. history rose an organization whose sole purpose was to ensure such a tragedy is never repeated.

“The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) was created with only one mission: ensure that policies and laws never allow such a travesty to happen again,” said Joe Dorman, chief executive officer OICA. “Even today, more than four decades later, just reading about what happened gives one shudders to think these acts could happen to children.”

To celebrate its successes over the past 40 years, and to set the stage for additional advances in the years ahead, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy has slated a pair of anniversary events in late April in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Both events will have similar programs with the same speakers and will also include a celebration of the organization’s anniversary, along with a policy update on the OICA’s current work at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Two awards will also be presented to advocates from the legal and journalism fields.

The Oklahoma City event will honor former board and staff members and is an invitation-only event.  The Tulsa event is the organization’s public celebration, with ticket sales and sponsorships going to support the organization’s advocacy work.

At both events, OICA will honor and hear from several of those individuals involved with litigating and reporting the “Terry D.” lawsuit.

Panel speakers will be:

  • Laura Choate, one of the plaintiffs in the “Terry D.” lawsuit.
  • Steven A. Novick, lead attorney representing the children.
  • Karen Burnes and Bill Lichtenstein, investigative producers for the 20/20 segment “Throwaway Kids.”
  • Terri Watkins and Bill Gallagher, KOCO reporters who brought the story to Oklahomans.
  • Terry Smith and Bob Burke, authors of the book “Throwaway Kids” which details the history of Oklahoma DHS.
  • Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Rachel Holt.
  • Oklahoma Human Services Director Dr. Deborah Shropshire.

For those unaware of the case which began in 1978, it began to generate media interest in 1982 when reporters were able to uncover a scandal in Oklahoma’s juvenile system that continues to shock consciences more than four decades later. According to the Gannett News report entitled “Oklahoma’s Shame” (available on OICA’s website), children in juvenile detention were subjected to abuses too horrid to mention.

The stories and reports gave fuel to a lawsuit filed by several of the children who were being systematically abused while in the custody of the state. Local attorney Steven A. Novick served as the legal counsel for the children – including OICA Board Member Laura Choate – who brought the “Terry D.” lawsuit against the State of Oklahoma in 1978. Through Novick’s efforts representing these children and the thousands of others who benefited from this case, reforms were enacted to improve the conditions of Oklahoma youth in state care.

Among those to break the story were reporters from Oklahoma City’s ABC-affiliate station, KOCO-TV. The “Oklahoma Shame” report not only shook the conscience of Oklahomans, but the report also made national headlines, leading to a report on the ABC Television Network’s news magazine “20/20” entitled “Throwaway Kids.” Investigative reporters spent nearly a year compiling stories and interviews which led to congressional hearings regarding the treatment of children in Oklahoma.

This brought about significant changes that occurred within Oklahoma state government. OICA was created in 1983 to be an independent watchdog, unfettered by the influence of the powerful politicians by being a voice outside of government. In fact, the charge of OICA was to keep an eye on policy and policymakers to ensure Oklahoma never again goes down the road that led to such abuses.

“OICA has remained vigilant to that mission,” said Mitchell Rozin, president emeritus of OICA’s Board of Directors. “Our staff and board are continually fighting for policies that improve the lives of children and families. We are their independent voice at the State Capitol and in the communities where they live and learn.”

In addition, Rozin noted that OICA’s advocacy is data-driven, based on the latest, most relevant data and research on key issues and indicators related to the well-being of children and youth. Further, OICA promotes best practices – translating data and research into practice and promoting best-practice program models and effective partnerships that achieve results. Most importantly, Schultz said, OICA supports policies using data, research, and partnerships to identify solutions and inform policy-making decisions.

For four decades, OICA has been informing and educating state policymakers and other citizens on the importance of investing wisely in children and families. “We understand that when children thrive — our state thrives,” Dorman said.

“Whether working with state policymakers and agencies, or with health, education, business, and community organizations across our state, Oklahoma’s children — and our state’s economy — are reaping the benefits of the work we do together as voices for Oklahoma’s future,” he said. “Our goal, quite simply, is to ensure that every child in Oklahoma – from birth to adulthood – is nurtured, healthy, educated, protected from harm, and thriving. We still have a lot of work to do, together, to achieve our goal.”

For more information about OICA, how you can help us with the organization’s mission, and to get tickets to the 40th anniversary celebration luncheons scheduled for April 27 in Oklahoma City and April 28 in Tulsa, go to