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There are a total of 77 counties in Oklahoma with a population just over 3.8 million people, according to 2012 census data. There is a notable presence of Native Americans throughout the state with 37 federally recognized tribes statewide. Custer County, Oklahoma is in Western Oklahoma, about 90 miles west of Oklahoma City. It is a rural community with a population of 28,536, according to 2012 census data. The largest racial/ethnic group in Custer County is White (73.4%), followed by Hispanic (13.9%), American Indian (6%), Black (2.9%), two or more races (2.7%), and Asian (1%). The median household income in Custer County is $35,581. Poverty rates are as high as 30% throughout the state, with 28.6% of Custer County residents falling below the poverty line as of 2010.
Structure of Child Welfare System
Oklahoma is a state-supervised, county-administered child welfare system. Custer County Department of Human Services is located in Clinton, Oklahoma, and is the county agency responsible for child welfare services in the community. On average, Custer County receives approximately 28 reports of child abuse and neglect each month. As of 2013, Custer County had approximately 100 children in out-of-home care, 70% of which were in kinship placements.
The state of Oklahoma utilizes a differential response approach to investigating reports of child abuse and neglect. Family assessments make up approximately 10% of Custer County cases and tend to be lower risk cases with no maltreatment finding required. Assessments are conducted when the allegation of abuse or neglect does not constitute a serious or immediate threat to a child’s health or safety. Traditional investigations make up approximately 90% of Custer County cases and do require a maltreatment finding to be made. Investigations are conducted when the report contains allegations of serious threats to the child’s safety.
In 2012, the state of Oklahoma received 68,111 reports of abuse and neglect and 32,421 of those reports met the definition of abuse or neglect and required an investigation or an assessment. In 2012, Custer County received 389 reports of child abuse and neglect and 222 of those reports were accepted for investigation or assessment. Child Welfare consists of:
- Investigation Workers, who investigate reports of child abuse and neglect and make determinations of risk and safety
- Permanency Workers, who provide the ongoing case management services to families
- Bridge Workers, who are foster care and adoption staff who recruit and retain resource homes for the agency and work to finalize adoptions
The Custer County Trauma Team is a collaboration between Oklahoma Department of Human Services, community behavioral health professionals, law enforcement, and other advocates for children in the foster care system. The trauma team has been working together since 2011 to implement system change and create a trauma-informed approach to children and families served in the community.