Oklahoma

Recent Articles

For the Children: Free Comic Book Day Helps to Boost Reading and Literacy

 

Oklahoma – I am taking a week off from discussing the Oklahoma Legislature and politics to share some important news: May 6 is Free Comic Book Day in the United States! As a collector of comics, I am excited about this day for obvious reasons. But as the CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, I am excited about the way in which it can be used to jump-start our children’s interest in reading, their imaginations, and ultimately their literacy levels. If you were not aware before, you are now: I collect comic books. When I was running for governor in 2014, my staff was actually afraid it might cost me votes. Continue Reading →

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Save our State by Balancing the Budget Responsibly

Oklahoma – We are approaching a critical deadline in Oklahoma as we near the end of the legislative session. No comprehensive budget solution has moved forward to address the roughly $1 billion shortfall facing our state. Both Governor Fallin and the House Democratic caucus have released plans to balance the budget by raising new revenues, but the House of Representatives as a whole has not unveiled their solutions at this point. Legislative leaders in the majority are working to find consensus within the body to provide the necessary 76 votes needed to pass any revenue raising measures, but time is running short. This state budget deficit is not a new problem. Continue Reading →

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For the Children: A Cost-Cutting Measure That Hurts Kids

With a $900 million budget shortfall dominating this year’s legislative session, many lawmakers are looking to balance the budget by cutting government spending. As advocates for children, our job at OICA is to shield Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable residents from any “cost-cutting” measures that would adversely impact them and, in some cases, negatively change the trajectory of their entire lives. One of those measures is Senate Bill 81, which seeks to lower the grade level at which a student can be suspended from school. Currently, out-of-school suspension is only allowable at the 6th grade level and above. SB 81 would allow children as early as third grade (only 8 or 9 years old) to be suspended.  In addition, the bill would reduce the requirements for counseling programs available to these children, who are the ones who need it the most. Continue Reading →

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Be a Part of the Solution During Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I believe child advocates must use this as an opportunity to advance two important goals: first; to help our friends and neighbors fully grasp how widespread and terrible the problems of child abuse and neglect are; second, to encourage them to be part of the solution. When it comes to evaluating the prevalence and impact of child abuse and neglect, the numbers tell a frightening tale. The KIDS COUNT Data Center, a joint research product of OICA and the national Annie E. Casey Foundation, reports that of the more than 200,000 children in Oklahoma County under the age of 19, 41 percent have had an adverse childhood experience

On a statewide level, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ statistics paint an equally grim picture. Since 2014, over 363,000 cases of alleged abuse and neglect have been reported to the agency. More than 44,000 were eventually confirmed. Continue Reading →

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Legislators Urged to Support Efforts to Modernize Oklahoma Alcohol Laws

OKLAHOMA CITY — With less than two months left in the Legislative session, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House of Representatives will soon be voting on a flurry of bills that would further update the state’s alcohol laws. Modernize Oklahoma, a group supporting consumer choice and local businesses, is encouraging legislators to vote “yes” on these proposals and continue the push to end prohibition era rules and regulations. Modernize Oklahoma Executive Director Alex Weintz said his organization was originally formed to promote State Question 792, the successful initiative petition to allow the sale of cold, regular strength beer and wine in grocery stores, liquor stores and convenience stores beginning in October 2018. After the law’s passage, however, it became clear that several smaller reforms would be needed to ensure a level playing field for alcohol vendors, support consumer choice, and ensure the implementation of SQ 792 went smoothly. “When State Question 792 passed by a margin of two to one, the people of Oklahoma spoke very clearly,” said Weintz. Continue Reading →

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For the Children:   The Good, the Bad and the Ugly After Key Legislative Deadline

Oklahoma – Last Friday marked the end of what political insiders call “deadline week” at the Oklahoma State Capitol. It is the last opportunity this year for legislation to pass in the chamber (House or Senate) where it was originally introduced. Legislation that fails to advance is “dead” in 2017. It is a major turning point in the session, as it gives us an opportunity to evaluate what ideas and reforms are gaining traction and which have fallen by the wayside. The House of Representatives, for instance, began with 1370 bills and resolutions, but only 316 made it past deadline week and remain active. Continue Reading →

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New Norman Charter School Expands Opportunities for Parents and Students

“Choice is on the march”
NORMAN, OK – ChoiceMatters, a parent-led group that advocates for expanding educational opportunities for Oklahoma families, today thanked the Oklahoma State Board of Education for approving a new charter school in Norman. Le Monde International School, now set to open in 2018, will offer students both French and Spanish immersion education. Reagan Elementary, the local public school, had previously offered a French immersion program but had discontinued it. In response, local parents worked to build support for a new charter school and submitted a successful application to open next year. “This is a tremendous victory for parents and children in Norman,” said ChoiceMatters President Robert Ruiz. Continue Reading →

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Foster Care Reform and Improvement Bill Passes in Oklahoma Senate 

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and the head of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) today thanked the state Senate for their unanimous support of a bill proposing several improvements within the state’s foster care system. Senate Bill 727, by Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie) would:

Ensure a more collaborative process between parents and DHS and more actively engage parents around decisions involving child placement. Strengthen long-term accountability at DHS by requiring yearly public reports be submitted regarding the foster care system, child welfare staff workloads and other key metrics. Increase support and resources for foster parents and strengthen the Foster Parents Bill of Rights. Reduce liability for foster parents to allow children in DHS custody to participate in appropriate activities, such as permitting foster children to participate in football or basketball. Continue Reading →

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A Brighter Future for Every Oklahoma Child

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. Continue Reading →

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Youth Justice Leadership Institute Seeking Applicants

OKLAHOMA CITY – A national partner of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is now accepting applications for the Youth Justice Leadership Institute. The Institute is organized by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJNN), and offers fellowships to advocates or organizers who focus on juvenile justice system practices and policies. The fellowships are geared towards individuals of color working as professionals in the juvenile justice field, who may also be young adults who are system survivors themselves, or family members of someone in the system.  Each year, 10 fellows from across the country are selected to develop their leadership and advocacy skills in the context of a robust curriculum around youth justice reform. The fellowship is completed concurrently with fellows’ current employment, so fellows do not have to leave their jobs to participate in the Institute. Continue Reading →

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