Senate passes measures to protect children

Mike Seals - April 15, 2021 10:43 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate approved a pair of bills Wednesday afternoon to better protect the health and well-being of Oklahoma’s children in daycare facilities and those living under safety plans. Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, is the Senate author of the House measures.

“As legislators, one of our greatest responsibilities is protecting the health and safety of our state’s youth,” Garvin said. “These bills address two different situations where children are in the care of people other than their parents. We must ensure that these adults are acting in the best interests of the children that have been entrusted into their care. These are much-needed changes that will be great for Oklahoma’s children, and I’m excited to have worked with the House authors to pass these bills.”

House Bill 1797, by Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, prohibits anyone who is under investigation by the Department of Human Services (DHS) for heinous and shocking abuse while responsible for a child to work with children or reside in a childcare facility while the investigation is pending. Employers are also prohibited from contracting with such individuals during the investigation. If DHS determines a substantiated finding of such abuse, the childcare facility owner and the childcare resource and referral agency must be notified within one business day of the finding. The facility must also notify the parents or guardians within 72 hours of the finding. The Department will also develop a process prohibiting the perpetrator from future childcare employment. The bill now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

Miller filed the bill after a mother told her of an incident at her child’s daycare. The employee in question was previously involved in an incident at another facility but was still legally allowed to work at the second facility because they had not been added to the Restricted Registry by DHS.

“As a mother myself, I found the situation that inspired this legislation deeply troubling,” Miller said. “I’m very thankful that one of my constituents brought this loophole to my attention so we could work to address this oversight and keep our children safe, and I appreciate the dedicated work of my colleague Senator Garvin to pass this legislation.”

HB 1902, by Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, provides that the safety plan monitor of a child who is in a safety plan with DHS may, if the child’s parent is unavailable, authorize necessary medical or dental treatment or examinations.

“House Bill 1902 corrects a glaring oversight in the allowed actions of safety plan monitors, and, if signed into law, it would help keep all of Oklahoma’s children healthy,” Roe said. “I’m very pleased that the bill has now passed both chambers and want to express my appreciation to my colleague who works at a child advocacy center and pointed out the necessity of this change.”

 

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