DCF

 

A new law standardizing Kansas’ response to child-on-child sexual assault could cost $126,000 and result in more than 3,200 treatment referrals a year.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed legislation Friday that directs the Department for Children and Families to immediately refer a minor to treatment if the agency receives a report that the child sexually abused another child.

Social workers can perform a myriad of tasks. Some check on children in abusive homes and some train foster families. Others support patients through medical procedures like kidney dialysis or provide talk therapy to mental health patients.

But there are too few of them in Kansas.

Twice, Rep. Jarrod Ousley introduced bills that would create a watchdog over the Kansas agency in charge of looking after children from troubled families.

It’s a massive department hounded by stories of overlooked abuse cases and foster children caught in punishing patterns of shifting from one temporary home to the next.

Ousley says he’s dropping the idea of a state child advocate. For now.

Before Laura Kelly took over as governor, the Kansas Department for Children and Families overhauled which private companies would manage its child welfare system, and how the department would oversee their work.

Kelly put the brakes on that whole plan in December.

On Thursday, she announced she’d be rolling back major parts of the changes. She canceled grants with two companies and said the state would renegotiate grants with three companies.

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly announced Thursday that she’s replacing the head of the state’s embattled child welfare agency, and at the same time putting on hold new grants for private contractors to manage foster care and family preservation services.

Turmoil marks the troubled norm for foster care in Kansas.

Now political, financial and legal forces look poised to slam the system into a new level of chaos that makes seasoned child welfare professionals worried about a barrage of change.

A University of Kansas study linked tighter welfare rules to a growing foster care load.

The state agency overseeing those programs backed those same new rules. Now, it’s hired a research team to question the findings of the KU study.

The alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl while she was waiting for a foster care placement in May has many asking about consequences for the contractor, responsible that day for both the girl and the 18-year-old accused of assaulting her.

On a Facebook Live session Wednesday, Department for Children and Families secretary Gina Meier-Hummel fielded a question about why the contractor hasn’t been dropped.

In the wake of rape charge filed in an attack on a 13-year-old girl in the office of a foster care contractor, Kansas lawmakers said Tuesday they’ll investigate what went wrong.

One legislator said state officials and the contractor responsible for watching over the alleged victim will face tough questions later this month.

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 new system for hiring agencies to coordinate adoptions and foster care placements in Kansas will continue to let some groups cite religious beliefs to exclude some prospective parents — including gay couples.

The Department for Children and Families earlier this week had left lawmakers confused about whether a new grant system would extend those religious protections to the agencies taking over statewide foster care and family preservation contracts.

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.

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.

Some 20 administrators in the Kansas agency managing child welfare and state assistance have been promoted, fired or shifted to other posts since November.

Gina Meier-Hummel was tapped to take over the Department for Children and Families nearly six months ago and says now that the changes have been aimed at strengthening the agency as it confronts a rising caseload of children in care.

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.

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.

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.

Creative Commons

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Agency says social work vacancies haven’t compromised safety.

Nearly one-quarter of social workers with the Kansas Department for Children and Families left the job in a yearlong period ending Dec. 1, 2015, and job vacancies increased by more than two-thirds at the same time.