A new school year is starting! Don’t forget to adjust your travel times as you encounter school buses on their routes. Teachers, staff and students have a wonderful year!

In regards to Health and Human Services, the Oklahoma Legislature this year designed measures to better protect children, elevate the use of telemedicine and increase competition in the health insurance market.

SB 727 requires the DHS to utilize a collaborative decision-making process while conducting an investigation or assessment in response to a report of abuse or neglect of a child. The purpose of the process is to assess each child’s needs and whether the conditions warrant a safety intervention by the department.

If the department determines that immediate removal of the child is necessary, DHS is directed to utilize the collaborative decision-making process prior to the emergency custody hearing, if feasible. Additional provisions of the measure include:

--Requiring the department to disseminate information about a child in its custody who becomes eligible for adoption to licensed child-placing agencies that have requested to receive such notice;

--Requiring the department to submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature including the number of custody children placed in non-family settings, a census approved foster homes and number of children placed, and information regarding child welfare caseloads and salaries; and,

--Exempting foster parents acting in good faith from liability for property damage or injuries caused by the child or to the child when engaged in appropriate activities and the damage or injuries are a result of inherent risks associated with the activity.

SB 723 modifies the types of records searches that must be conducted prior to DHS issuing a license to an individual to operate a child care facility and prior to a facility hiring an employee.

The measure requires that a search include any available child abuse and neglect registry in a state where the individual has lived in the last five years; it requires a search of the nontechnical services worker abuse registry maintained by the State Department of Health; and a search of the community services worker registry maintained by the DHS.

Lastly, the bill provides that anyone who refuses to consent to the criminal background check or who knowingly makes a false statement in connection with the background check will be ineligible to own, work in or reside in a child care facility.

HB 1491 modifies the current exemption to the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act for summer youth camps that care for children 5 years of age and younger by lowering the age to 4. The bill also exempts facilities in counties with a population of less than 100,000 that provide care for school-aged children for 21 hours per week or less.

It is my honor to serve you as your state representative! Please feel free to contact me anytime.

Rep. Will Fourkiller (D- District 86) represents the 86th district in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached at will.fourkiller@okhouse.gov‬‬‬‬ or at 405-557-7394.