Kansas foster care

Kansas foster care contractors will now be paying a financial price for kids sleeping in their offices. The plan was made public Friday during a meeting of a child welfare task force.

Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said the contractors will face fines and citations against their licenses. The fines and citation consequences won't be set unless there's a violation, she said.

Last year, the public learned that kids were sleeping in the offices of Kansas foster care contractors because of a lack of available placements on short notice.

No children pulled into the Kansas foster care system have slept in offices so far this month.

Having zero kids sleep in offices is significant for the state child welfare agency, which saw 85 kids crashing on cots or couches back in April. The number of kids left without a placement in a group or foster home was down to single digits in June and July.

At the same time, the overall number of kids in foster care has also been dropping by a few dozen kids per month since April. But there are still 7,500 children in out-of-home care.

The number of children in foster care in Kansas went down in May and June, the first such two-month drop in more than a year.

A restructuring of how Kansas hires agencies to manage foster care and adoptions could allow widespread exclusion of placements with gay parents — a revelation Monday that prompted objections from some lawmakers.

So far this month, eastern Kansas foster care contractor KVC Kansas hasn’t had any kids sleep in its offices. St. Francis, the contractor for the rest of the state, has had four kids overnight, according to the latest update from the state child welfare agency.

In recent months, each of those contractors logged dozens of overnight stays per month.

Adrian Jones. Evan Brewer. Conner Hawes. Lucas Hernandez.

News coverage of those children’s deaths and others under the state’s watch galvanized public outrage over the past three years and drew more scrutiny to the troubled child welfare system in Kansas.

Children entering the Kansas foster care system will soon have a new short-term place to stay in Kansas City.

With kids sleeping in their offices several nights a month, KVC Kansas, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, has been looking to open some sort of crisis center for the past year.

The Kansas child welfare agency is splitting foster care from family preservation services.

The Department for Children and Families put out its call for separate grantees Thursday.

The state’s two current contractors — KVC Kansas in the Kansas City metro and eastern region, and St. Francis Community Services in Wichita and the western region — have been managing foster care and services aimed at keeping struggling families together.

The Kansas Legislature has narrowly approved a controversial measure allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in Kansas to be reimbursed by the state for placement services, even if they turn away prospective parents who don’t fit their religious beliefs.

The bill that includes the provisions constituting the “Adoption Protection Act” passed the House shortly before midnight Thursday with the bare minimum 63 votes in favor with 58 against. The Senate followed suit a couple hours later on a 24-15 vote. In a statement, Gov. Jeff Colyer said he would sign it.

Janelle DuBree didn’t need statistics to see that foster kids are traumatized. The evidence was spilled, smashed and smeared all over her kitchen and down the hallway.

Two of the younger girls she took in, on one of their first nights in her Emporia home, raided the kitchen around 2 a.m. Eggs were cracked and trailed everywhere — on the floor, the countertops, the side of the refrigerator. Her carpet was soaked in bright red Hawaiian Punch.

DuBree adopted the girls, now 7 and 9, from a place where food wasn’t always available. So when it was plentiful, they took out and ate everything they could.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families is opening up child protection services jobs to people who aren’t licensed social workers.

Kansas Lawmakers moved Tuesday to make a bill to release information about the deaths of children in state custody more transparent.

In response to several high-profile cases where a child had been brought to the attention of the Department for Children and Families and later died, the bill requires the agency to release information about kids who die as a result of abuse or neglect.

A bill before Kansas lawmakers says faith-based child agencies should not be required to place children in families if it conflicts with the religious values of the organization.

The private groups currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples.

Kansas lawmakers are considering creating a watchdog based outside the state’s child welfare agency, but with access to inside information.

A bill to create a child advocate to review the Department for Children and Families comes after years of horror stories of abused children who ended up injured, missing or dead.

Kansas’ child welfare agency wants to hire a second full-time investigator to track down kids missing from the state’s foster system.

The move comes in the wake of reports last October, when the Department for Children and Families was run by Phyllis Gilmore, that the agency had lost track of three sisters who’d run away from a Tonganoxie foster home.

The new head of Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency got a unanimous vote of confidence from a legislative committee Friday.

Even the agency's staunchest critics think Gina Meier-Hummel will sail through a confirmation vote from the full Senate to head the Department for Children and Families.

“I can’t imagine that she will” face any serious opposition, said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat running for governor, and one of several lawmakers who called for the ouster of Meier-Hummel’s predecessor, former DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore.

A call sets it off.

One of Kansas’ two foster care contractors learns another child has landed in state custody. It has four hours to pick the kid up.

A University of Kansas study supports the suspicions of lawmakers and advocates who believe there’s a link between additional restrictions on welfare benefits and an increase in foster care cases.

The new secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families has come in promising a thorough review of the agency, staffing changes and more accountability following allegations and outrage about problems in the state’s foster care system.

The well-being of children in her care is Gina Meier-Hummel’s highest priority.

That is the consensus on the new secretary for the Kansas Department for Children and Families among people who have worked with her. And it’s why stakeholders in the state’s child welfare system are hopeful that her appointment by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer signals a change of direction for the embattled agency.

Officials with the Kansas Department for Children and Families responded Tuesday to concerns about destroyed evidence in child abuse cases during a legislative task force meeting.

After a Kansas City Star investigation suggested DCF employees had shredded documents regarding children in state care, an agency official told lawmakers that the claims by former DCF deputy director Dianne Keech were inaccurate.

Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of Kansas’ Department for Children and Families, announced Friday that she will retire effective Dec. 1. Friday was also the last day for her top deputy, Chief of Staff Jeff Kahrs, as he departs for a position with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DCF oversees the state’s privatized foster care system, which has drawn particular scrutiny during Gilmore’s tenure.

With high numbers of children in the foster care system and not enough homes to care for them, one Kansas contractor is turning to a short-term housing option.  

Phyllis Gilmore, the secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, is coming under increasing fire because of problems in the state foster care system.

Former legislator and current Republican candidate for governor Mark Hutton is calling on Gov. Sam Brownback to fire Gilmore. He says revelations about missing foster children are the latest in a “near endless stream of failures.”

In a recent interview, he also expressed frustration about reports of children having to spend the night in the offices of the state’s foster care contractors.

The news that about 70 children are missing from the Kansas foster care system is the latest in a string of concerns for lawmakers and child welfare advocates.

Seventy-four children are missing from Kansas’ privatized foster care system.

Stephen Koranda

Over the last year, more than 100 Kansas kids placed in the foster care system had to spend the night in offices instead of homes.  Kids slept on couches or makeshift beds in the offices of the private organizations that handle foster care placement. 
 
Lawmakers and child advocates heard about the issue during a meeting of a foster care task force in Topeka. Republican Representative Linda Gallagher is one of the group’s members.

Aubri Thompson has already had her share of challenges by age 21: She left the foster care system without a designated caregiver, lived without a steady home for more than a year and became a single parent before finishing college.

Thompson lived in the Kansas foster care system from age 14, when she was reported as a runaway, until she “aged out” at 18. During that time, she moved 21 times, staying in foster homes, group homes and mental health treatment facilities.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday signed a bill creating a task force to examine the Kansas foster care system.

The number of children in the Kansas foster care system has set records in recent years, passing 7,100 in April. The death of an abused boy in Kansas City, Kansas, also raised concerns about whether the system was protecting children.