Joe Dorman

Recent Articles

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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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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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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OICA Praises Sen. Griffin for Legislation Addressing Social Problems

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) CEO Joe Dorman today thanked State Senator AJ Griffin for introducing a measure that would enhance partnerships between the Department of Human Services and the state’s non-profit and private sectors. The bill aims at tackling problems associated with poverty, incarceration and mental health outcomes.  
 Senate Bill 748 implements a “pay for success” model that has already been adopted in other states. Under that model, private companies would raise capital to design and fund new programs. Non-profits like OICA aid in the implementation of these new programs before state government, after evaluating their success, can then agree to fund them.  “Everyone wants to support programs that successfully reduce incarceration rates, reduce poverty and deliver better mental health outcomes,” said Dorman. Continue Reading →

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For the Children – Is Your Glass Half-Full?

I try to be a “glass half-full” kind of person, but there are times when parts of your world can wear you down.  We all experience this to some extent, but it is how you deal with these situations that determines the outcome and impact on your own life and those around you. Far too many children in Oklahoma experience negative circumstances which can change the course of their entire lives. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy asked Dr. Jennifer Hays-Grudo serve as the keynote speaker on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) for our annual KIDS COUNT Conference.  Dr. Hays-Grudo discussed the results of studies across the United States with children 17 and under and the trauma associated with their childhood.  Not surprisingly, of the categories tested, Oklahoma ranked at the top with the highest percentage of children experiencing childhood trauma that followed them into adulthood. You can view slides from her presentation at www.oica.org/conference for more details. We face a generational cycle of trauma which simply will not be fixed overnight.  Our 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book showed slight improvement from recently collected statistics, so we must not backtrack.  There is far more work needed to continue solutions within the Oklahoma State Capitol and the various agencies, as well as neighborhoods and communities. Continue Reading →

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The Women’s March From Oklahoma

On Saturday, January 21, more than five million women gathered in various locations around the world at over 670 planned marches.  The intent was to show the new leaders elected in our government that women of all ages are a strong force, and issues of importance – equality, health care, race, issues with disabilities, and sexual assault – are topics that need more positive attention through policy. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy also works in partnership to address these challenges for our youngest residents. The rally which I attended in Oklahoma City was a gathering of men and women from different parts of the state.  Those assembled were very happy with the turnout, estimated by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol at between 12,000 to 14,000 participants. There are different types of events meant to inspire change, ranging from marches, to protests, to riots.  Marches are intended to be peaceful demonstrations to promote a cause.  Protests are gatherings to encourage action, but usually with an anger associated with that effort.  Riots are full-scale outbreaks of criminal activity which lead to arrests and upheaval.  A good contrast to Oklahoma City’s peaceful, constructive rally would be the riots that occurred in Washington, D.C. surrounding President Donald Trump’s inauguration.  Those riots led to more than 230 arrests, property damage and persons injured.  The very next day, thankfully, more than 500,000 people marched in the same city with not a single arrest. The riots were counterproductive and destructive; the peaceful rallies and protests are continuing to spark a productive dialogue. Continue Reading →

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For Some, It is Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The holidays are often a time to rejoice, but some do not share the joyful feelings of the season. The shorter days of winter can bring a gloomy mood and the hype of the holidays can set unrealistic expectations, especially for youngsters. Children may feel sad or anxious around December for many reasons, including added stress from splitting time between divorced parents, coping with the recent loss of a loved one, or issues surrounding school. Adults need to be attentive to signs displayed by children.  It is also important for grown-ups to be cognizant of how their own stressful actions might impact youngsters. To help kids cope with this sadness, Dr. Elizabeth McCauley, interim director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has offered advice on ways to lessen holiday stress. Continue Reading →

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Oklahoma’s Changing Legislature and Children Needs

Oklahoma-The battle to improve the circumstances of Oklahoma’s children is largely fought in the Legislature, where lawmakers will  appropriate funds and create policies which impact education, health, foster care and other areas that directly effect kids.  Regardless of one’s political preferences, successful advocacy hinges on understanding the political environment at our State Capitol.  Today, that environment is driven by two main forces: the increase in numbers of the Republican policymakers and  legislative turnover created by term limits.  In the State House, Republicans gained four seats, meaning they now control that chamber with a supermajority of 75 members, compared to 26 elected Democrats. In the Senate, Republicans held onto 42 of the 48 seats. Continue Reading →

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