53
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      OKDHS leaders say they need $33 million in extra funds

      Leaders of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services say they need nearly $33 million in additional funding.

      The department says 2500 additional children are being cared for by the agency than about 18 months ago. Nearly 11,000 children are in DHS custody currently.

      "What we didn't anticipate was the number of children coming into the state foster care system, and the numbers of children leaving foster care would drop," said OKDHS spokesperson Sheree Powell.

      The agency says it needs to increase pay for its workers and foster families.

      The funds provided to foster homes barely pay for minimum costs, Powell said.

      DHS leaders testified in front of a house appropriations committee Monday.

      The chair of that committee says he's sympathetic to their needs, but says there's little to give.

      "We simple don't have the money," said Representative Jason Nelson.

      "The only legislatively mandated pay raise for any group of state employees in the last 10 years, I believe, was to child welfare workers," Nelson said. "It is a priority for the legislation, but you still have fiscal realities that you have to live within your means."

      "Unfortunately, it still hasn't been enough and we're going to need more to continue to be successful in serving these children," Powell said.

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