KFOR: ‘I don’t know where I would be’: Struggles for children in DHS care

By: Ashley Moss

Published: October 26, 2023

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – October is domestic violence awareness month. While it often signifies a time to mourn lives lost to domestic violence, it’s also an occasion to celebrate progress and connect with others to make change.

At least one in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence each year, according to the National Coalition of Domestic Violence, and the effects can last for years.

For the past week, KFOR has focused on Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services, shedding light on chronic problems in the system.

One recent conversation with a young man who passed through the system highlights how domestic violence victims are often put through an overcrowded system.

Jaden Alexander was one of thousands of Oklahoma kids who ended up in state care because of an unsafe home environment.

“My stepfather [was] physically, sexually, emotionally and verbally violent towards me,” he said.

Jaden spoke out for help, but change took time.

“I went to my school, I called DHS a couple of times and they told me everything was fine,” he said. “They came out and did an investigation and allowed the abuse to happen.”

Finallt, Jaden says he ran away, experiencing homelessness along the way.

“I don’t know where I would be. I would probably still be eating out of trashcans [if I didn’t finally get help],” he added, saying case managers were able to get him on track with resources and out of the dangerous home situation.

His story unfortunately is not unique.

According to the 2022 Annual Report for the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, a number of domestic violence cases involving kids happen at the hands of family members, including fathers and step-fathers.

In a phone call with KFOR Wednesday, a former child welfare specialist for the state said the system was and still is overwhelmed by all of the kids that need help.

“A majority of the cases that I had [were] either [due to] drugs or domestic violence…the kids were taken away because they witnessed domestic violence and it got out of hand,” said Jessica, who said she resigned after challenges.

That conversation puts perspective on stories like Jaden’s – who needed help to transition from being a victim to a survivor.

He finally got his fresh start after relocating to OKC from Tulsa and getting help from resources geared to those who age out of the foster care system.

He’s currently working towards his high school diploma, is employed and is also taking advantage of a transitional housing program in OKC.

He says he is no longer in contact with most of his family.