I finished my article for the the newspaper last night and planned to get up this morning and make a few final touches before submitting it. However when I woke up today and checked my newsfeed I saw that time had announced its person of the year. If you haven’t seen it yet Time chose the “Silence Breakers.”
The silence breakers are the women who spearheaded the #MeTooMovement. these women are actresses, engineers, migrant farm worker’s, television and radio personalities, and a slew of other every day people. Times selection this year shows the power of the grassroots movement and of the voices of many when they overcome the fear of speaking out.
If you’ve been following along with what I’m doing lately you’ve seen the case that I’m working on against Oklahoma department of human services DHS. I have had people say that these women are attention seekers with an ax to grind against the department. I have read comments from others stating that if the children in their care aren’t safe it’s because they’re not doing their jobs. There have been many other negative comments posted online by those who support the powers that be within DHS. But more importantly there have been more and more people step forward for our version of #Metoo to say DHS has a problem.
The hashtags we have chosen for this movement is #saveOKkids and #OKleadershipcrisis. If you’re on social media hashtags are a great way to collect and follow stories on a certain subject but more important than the hashtag though is the subject at hand.
Like the woman of the #metoo movement these women have stepped forward with a great potential risk to their careers their finances their reputation and potentially even their personal safety if you believe some of the things I’ve been told. However these women don’t have an ax to grind against the state or DHS. They want to save children which is why they went into this profession to begin with.
If you’ve lived in Oklahoma a long time a few of these names might sound familiar to you & they highlight the ongoing problem with the department of human services.
Ryan Luke – died in kinship placement with grandfather who allowed child to see his allegedly abusive mother. ( 1996)
Shane Coffman – died in home that had been investigated for abuse and his body was found hidden in the freezer outside the mobile home. ( 1996)
Erika Green aka Precious Doe – died when father was in prison and mother and boyfriend took her and killed her in a drug fueled rampage in 2001. Her body was discovered decapitated in the woods in Kansas. The DOC and DHS system failed her. (2001)
Kelsie Smith Briggs – killed by her stepfather in home after DHS investigated abuse allegations involving the family. (2005)
Serenity Deal – died after being allowed to stay with stay with her previously uninvolved father who had his own legal history. Two DHS workers were criminally prosecuted over the death and one worker who was cleared committed suicide. (2011)
Alysa Horney – died in Kinship foster placement, DHS worker failed to do a proper background check and ignored warning signs. (2013)
Miracle Ellis – died in DHS foster care but DHS claims there was no neglect because Miracle was a “fragile child” due to the conditions of her birth. (2013)
Christopher Seaton – died trying to escape a foster group home and allegedly chased across I-44 by group home workers. (2013)
Andrew Prior – died in Foster care from a head injury. (2014)
Mame-Neta Attocknie – died after being left in a hot car by foster parents. (2016)
Sha’Quality Cox – died in kinship placement due to asthma attack. (2017)
Joshua – a 2 month old who suffered life ending injuries 24 hours after his foster care placement this fall. (2017)
A.S. – died while in DHS custody but in home placement with the mother. (2017)
These are just a few of the cases that I know about or have received widespread attention. Ryan Luke’s 1996 case and Kelsie Smith Briggs 2011 case spurred new legislation. In between in 2008 we had the civil rights lawsuit that lead to the Pinnacle Plan which was supposed to reform the system. Unfortunately DHS hasn’t improved. We have seen DHS blame the workers but this is an ongoing problem that is bigger than the workers. This is a problem that goes all the way up to leadership in the agency. There is routine turnover in the lower ranks due to the demands of the job, but the constant is leadership.
Looking back to the Silence Breakers who have stepped out to start a movement that has changed the face of sexual harassment in the US this year it proves that while sometimes one voice isn’t heard, that one voice can be the catalyst to set off more voices to be heard. Soon we don’t hear just one victim or one worker saying that change needs to occur, rather we hear a cacophony of voices calling out about the problems in our society. Whether its sexual harassment in the workplace, the election of alleged sexual predators, abuse of children or some other equally heinous allegation, its the courage of the silence breakers that is truly remarkable.
The Silence Breakers have the ability to make change. The Silence Breakers are being the change they want to see. The Silence Breakers for sexual harassment have toppled some of the biggest names in entertainment, politics, and business.
The Oklahoma DHS Silence Breakers are working to do the same to save children. The Oklahoma Silence Breakers are more than 3 woman in Oklahoma County. This is more than a complaint about bosses or working conditions. The Oklahoma Silence Breakers are current and former workers from all over the state, foster parents, biological parents, adoptive parents, and kids who have been through the system who are stepping forward to say the system is broken, children are dying, workers are ill prepared and parents are overwhelmed. The DHS Silence Breakers are not waging a personal attack, they are seeking to protect children, help workers and empower parents. DHS has a leadership crisis, kids are dying and people aren’t willing to stay silent anymore.
Thank you to the Time Silence Breakers in the #metoo movement for stepping forth and stepping out to help break the silence all over. I truly think you are the people of the year too.