Sunday, September 30, 2012

Land of Confusion

Pervasive Parenting

By Kodey Toney

Land of Confusion

Have you ever tried to put together a piece of furniture, child’s toy, or a bicycle and found the instructions with photos, but the words were in a different language? This is kind of what I felt like when I was recently presented with Oklahoma State Ballot Question 765. I have been trying to make heads or tails of it, but must say that it is very confusing. Of course most state questions are confusing, but this one seems to be strangely worded. I’m going to try to help others understand this and give my opinion on the issue.

Let’s start with the wording of the question. According to the State Election Board the ballot will state:

“The measure amends the Oklahoma Constitution. It abolishes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services and the position of Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. These entities were created under different names by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of Article 25 of the Oklahoma Constitution and given duties and responsibilities related to the care of the aged and needy. The measure repeals these sections of the Constitution and consequently, removes the power of the Commission of Human Services to establish policy and adopt rules and regulations. Under the measure, the Legislature and the people by initiative petition retain the power to adopt legislation for these purposes.

The measure adds a provision to the Constitution authorizing the Legislature to create a department or departments to administer and carry out laws to provide for the care of the aged and the needy. The measure also authorizes the Legislature to enact laws requiring the newly-created department or departments to perform other duties.”

One of the major issues with this is the fact that it will abolish the Department of Human Services. Now I know many people will think that this would be a good thing. We think of some of the bad things that we’ve seen come out of the DHS, or we have issues with getting services through them. However, I’m not sure this is the answer. This is like the old saying, cutting off your nose to spite your face.

This is, after all, how all of this started, if I have my facts straight (and let me be the first to say I may not, but if you can explain it better to me then feel free). According to, this question came about following a negotiated settlement of a child welfare lawsuit against the DHS. The terms of the settlement included improvements to the child welfare system. House Speaker Kris Steele stated in a recent article in the Tulsa World that “the system has been struggling under an outdated ineffective governance model that has tended to isolate the agency from any real accountability.” In order to find that accountability the Legislators decided to put this question in place for November’s ballot.

The problem is that if the question passes then the state will do away with the DHS, or at least it could.

When this all began it was just to help find accountability for the child welfare section of the DHS. Now we’re going to get rid of the entire agency? Does anyone else think this may be a little too harsh of a punishment? I mean there is more to the DHS than just the child welfare department. There is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), there is child support, adoption, nutrition assistance, utility assistance, SoonerStart, and of course help for people with developmental disabilities. This is where Jennifer and I applied and were accepted on the TEFRA program. If we abolish the DHS then we are basically doing away with, or at least potentially, all of these programs that help many people throughout the state.

While there are issues with the DHS they are still very useful. There are also very good people who work for the program. I feel that the child welfare needs to be reworked, but not torn apart and reformed.

I also don’t mind holding the government accountable for the agency. This isn’t a horrible idea, but I’m not sure that this is the way to do it. The government may not actually abolish the DHS, but the fact that they could if we have 2/3 of the voters approve it just leaves more questions.

Many other state officials are pushing to pass this question. I don’t think they are putting the whole picture into perspective for people though. Rep. Jason Murphey; recently told the Guthrie News Page: “State Question 765 abolishes the unelected commission which has overseen the Department of Human Services, and makes the director of the department directly appointed by and accountable to the Governor. This is a needed reform because it would allow the voters to hold the Governor accountable for inappropriate actions by the department.” This is not untrue. However, he doesn’t explain the part about abolishing the DHS. makes a little more sense of this in the following statement: “(The question will) do away with DHS as currently structured and (give) the Legislature authority to create an agency to perform the functions carried out by DHS. But, according to the wording you may not know that the Legislature would transfer the Commission’s powers to the Governor.”

There is no clear sense of what the DHS will be replaced with. This leaves doubt about the department’s future because the Legislature’s gave ambiguous legal language. They are not specific enough.

Whatever the merits of the change in governance structure, the choice being presented to voters creates an unfortunate level of confusion and uncertainty.

The reason I even write about this is because it could affect many people with disabilities, or children with disabilities. I only ask two things; please vote on November 6, 2012, and please do your research before you do.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at


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