In 2018, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) closed the Laura Dester Center — the only remaining state-operated shelter in Oklahoma — as part of wide-scale reforms of the state child welfare system. In shuttering the Dester Center, however, the Department soon discovered a population of youngsters the Department lacked the ability to appropriately help.
For this reason, DHS engaged Liberty of Oklahoma Corporation (Liberty) to transform the Center into a short-term residential treatment program for children and youth with intellectual disabilities and significant behavioral support needs or a co-occurring mental illness. The goal of the newly redesigned program is to stabilize youth in crisis and prepare them for less restrictive residential settings.
Under this contract, Liberty has provided consulting services on a renovation to enable the Dester Center to meet licensure, life safety code, and Medicaid certification of beds. Liberty expects to be able to stabilize residents in an average of six months for placement back with family or in a family-like setting. At peak, the Center will provide 24 beds in three residential units, helping OKDHS fill a critical need for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable foster children.