Thursday, April 2, 2015
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today named former Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins as special adviser to the governor on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation.
Askins will primarily be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Pinnacle Plan, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’(DHS) ongoing effort to reform the state's child welfare operations.
“I’ve named Jari to this new, top-level role to bolster the effort to improve child welfare services and add her expertise to a priority issue,” said Fallin. “Jari is a universally respected leader who has made child welfare one of her top priorities throughout her long career in public service. There is no one more qualified to ensure that we are placing Oklahoma children in safe and loving environments.”
Askins, who has served in all three branches of government, most recently served as interim executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Her seven-month tenure ended with this week’s appointment of a new executive director.
A native of Duncan, she served as Oklahoma’s 15th lieutenant governor from 2007-11. She passed up seeking re-election to run for governor in 2010. As both lieutenant governor and a gubernatorial candidate, Askins emphasized the importance of improving state services to children.
She was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1994 and served for 12 years, serving her last two-year term as Democratic Leader.
Askins also served as a Stephens County special district judge for eight years, from 1982-1990. In 1991, she was appointed to the Pardon and Parole Board, which elected her as its first female chairman. She later served as executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board.
“I am appreciative of Governor Fallin’s continuing support of our efforts to improve the child welfare system,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We are excited about Jari Askins joining our team and the timing is excellent. Over the past six months we have gained momentum in several key areas of the Pinnacle Plan. We want to seize this opportunity to continue to build upon that progress.”
More about the Pinnacle Plan
The Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan is a five-year improvement plan for the state’s foster care system. The plan was developed in 2012 as a result of a settlement agreement in a class-action, civil rights lawsuit. DHS agreed to make improvements in several key areas of the foster care system including increasing the recruitment of foster homes, reducing the use of emergency shelters, and lowering workloads for child welfare specialists. In recent months, DHS has announced the closing of its two state-run emergency children’s shelters, child welfare workers have greatly reduced the number of backlog cases, and the department and its contract foster care agencies have recruited hundreds of new foster homes. DHS has increased in-home services to families in an effort to keep children out of state custody and worked to help children reunite with their families or reach adoption faster. Thanks to these efforts, the numbers of children in care has been steadily dropping which is positively impacting all the goals in the Pinnacle Plan.