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Oklahoma DHS Paying Millions to Child Welfare Consultants

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has paid out more than $5.6 million over the past four years to a New Jersey-based consulting group to oversee reforms to the state's child welfare system.

The payments to Public Catalyst have continued while DHS offers voluntary buyouts to more than 400 employees in an effort to reduce spending by the agency because of declining state revenues.

The Oklahoman reports that the consulting group includes three experts paid $315 an hour. They were appointed by a Tulsa federal judge to recommend and monitor reforms that were agreed upon as part of a settlement to a class-action lawsuit that focused on the abuse of some children in state care.

More than $4.9 million has been paid for professional service fees under the contract.