Friday, September 18, 2015
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin announced today that Jari Askins, special adviser on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation, is leaving her post on October 1 to become the administrative director of Oklahoma’s courts.
The governor in April tapped Askins, a former Oklahoma lieutenant governor, to oversee implementation of the Pinnacle Plan, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ (DHS) ongoing effort to reform the state's child welfare operations.
“I appreciate Jari’s hard work these past six months to improve child welfare services and to serve as my special adviser,” said Fallin. “She made a lot of progress in a very short period of time to ensure the Pinnacle Plan was being implemented appropriately. I wish her well in her new position.”
DHS Director Ed Lake praised Askins and cited several of her accomplishments.
“As we expected, Jari has been a wonderful asset to the child welfare program,” said Lake. “She has mentored the executive team to improve internal processes and leadership skills as well as achieve organizational structural efficiencies. She has also helped improve communications with external stakeholders such as the courts, district attorneys and law enforcement.
“I appreciate Governor Mary Fallin talking Jari into lending her time and talents to our efforts to improve the foster care system. We are sad to see Jari leave DHS so soon but looking forward to working with her in her new role to help ensure that Oklahoma’s courts and DHS are working cooperatively to better serve children and families.”
Askins said she was impressed by the dedication of DHS staff.
“I want to thank Governor Fallin for the opportunity to work with DHS,” Askins said. “When I arrived, I concentrated on understanding where Child Welfare Services was in implementing the Pinnacle Plan and where I could best contribute to the progress they were beginning to make. I have been impressed with their dedication to improving the foster care system, their professionalism, and their compassion for the children and families they serve."
Looking ahead, she said the state needs more Oklahomans to volunteer to be foster families.
“Despite the improvements that have been made, we continue to need more foster families,” Askins said. “ While there are several initiatives to help recruitment of foster homes, ultimately, we must rely on Oklahomans to help us care for these children.”
Fallin said that Pinnacle Plan implementation and child welfare services continue to be a priority for her. She will name a special adviser on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation to replace Askins sometime in the future.
Askins has served in all three branches of government. Before her role at DHS she served as interim executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
In her new role as court administrator she will assist the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in overseeing state courts. That includes court budgets, payroll and administrative duties in all but two district courts. Only Tulsa and Oklahoma County courts have administrators.
A native of Duncan, Askins served as Oklahoma’s 15th lieutenant governor from 2007-11. She passed up seeking re-election to run for governor in 2010. 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.