Madeline Fox | KCUR

Madeline Fox

Reporter, Kansas News Service

Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service covering foster care, mental health and military and veterans’ issues.

Madeline caught the bug for Kansas reporting as a college intern at the Wichita Eagle. She also worked at WLRN in South Florida, where she covered everything from parades to protests to presidential residences and got swiftly addicted to Cuban coffee.

She cut her teeth as a political reporter covering transportation for the Medill News Service in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in U.S. News, Military Times, The Miami Herald, NPR Weekend Edition and others.

A native of Portland, Oregon but a Chicagoan at heart, Madeline graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a second major in international studies that she mostly used as an excuse to study abroad in Spain and conduct research in the Paris suburbs.

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Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has signed into law a measure allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to get state reimbursement for placement services — even if they turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

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.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

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.

file photo / Kansas News Service

In the last year, the number of Cherokee County children in state custody shot up by roughly half.

The places available for those kids to stay, meanwhile, hasn’t changed.

So that’s meant shipping them two hours away — and regularly taking deputies from the 19-person sheriff’s department off patrol to drive the children to Andover, Kansas — the closest place available with any room.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

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.

file photo / Kansas News Service

For years, reporters in the Kansas Capitol press corps and advocates for open government pressed legislators to hide less of the workings of state government from public view.

Now, the Kansas Legislature appears ready to approve changes that would pull back the curtain — at least a tad.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

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

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

They dueled with pens and camera-ready events. The two men split over what could become a defining issue in their battle to win this year’s governor’s race, and over whether Kansas needs to spend more to fix its public schools.

Gov. Jeff Colyer went to a Topeka high school early Tuesday — a performance he planned to repeat later in the day in Wichita — to sign into law a plan to balloon the money sent to local districts by $500 million-plus over the next half-decade.

Screengrab / Kansas Department for Children and Families

Kansas is looking to prod parents to catch up on their child support, arguing that doing so could chip away at the the cost of welfare.

The Department for Children and Families website launched a child support evaders Web page Wednesday that features pictures of 10 delinquent parents. It includes notes on what they owe, where they were last seen, and a link to report their whereabouts.

Gov. Jeff Colyer said delinquent parents shift child support costs on to taxpayers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A bill to update state adoption law was sailing through the legislature. Until it wasn’t.

It’s been gummed up because of a faith-based protection provision that would allow adoption agencies to receive state funding while turning away prospective parents who don’t fit with an organization’s religious beliefs.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

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.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

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.

file photo / Kansas News Service

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 mere threat of launching debate on Medicaid expansion in Kansas has caged up a measure to suspend, rather than terminate, coverage for people while they’re locked up.

So legislators have created a policy work-around that doles out some extra money with direction to the state healthy agency to keep that coverage waiting for people when they get free.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

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.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A push to make more divorcing Kansas parents split custody evenly could, some critics contend, make the break-ups harder for children. What’s more, they worry a shift to a 50/50 custody standard could prevent a spouse’s escape from an abusive relationship.

A bill creating a new equal custody standard would significantly raise the standard needed for a judge to give one parent more time with the children than the other.

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A proposed telemedicine bill has Kansas medical providers pushing for a new chance to make their services eligible for reimbursement.

Under the House bill, introduced last month, licensed mental health care professionals and physicians can tend to faraway patients over phone or video calls. Insurers would have to cover their services as if they had seen patients in person.

Groups representing chiropractors, occupational therapists, nurses and other health professionals made their case for inclusion before the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Troubles in the Kansas foster care system might stem in large part from a shortage of places that can help children in psychiatric crisis, say some lawmakers and child advocate groups.

Since 2013, the number of psychiatric residential treatment facilities in Kansas has dropped from 11 to eight, with 222 fewer available beds.

File photo / Kansas News Service

A telemedicine bill aimed at improving health care access for Kansans, particularly in rural areas, may get bogged down in abortion politics.

The legislation would mean insurance companies can’t refuse to pay for services provided long-distance that they would cover at an in-person office visit.

More controversially, the bill would not allow drug-induced abortion or other abortion procedures through telemedicine.

file photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Income that doesn’t come close to the poverty line. Persistent job insecurity. Shifting schedules and irregular hours. Cumbersome barriers to state assistance meant for the neediest Kansans.

A new report from the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities paints a stark picture of the Kansas welfare system.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Today, when mentally ill Kansans land in a psychiatric hospital or behind bars, they lose Medicaid coverage. When they’re freed, the daunting chore of signing up for government health coverage starts from scratch.

Now, a push gaining steam among state lawmakers would merely pause that coverage, keeping care and critical medications ready for mental health patients when they get out.

file photo / Heartland Health Monitor

If nothing else, Sam Brownback has marked his time as governor of Kansas with one bold approach after the next. And few remade the status quo as much as his approach to welfare.

That sprung from his belief that even a well-meaning government that fails to prod the poor toward self-reliance ends up creating more dependency and stubborn poverty.

Like his record on such issues as game-shifting tax cuts, the results are arguably mixed.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

 


A task force formed to fix Kansas’ troubled foster care system relied largely on the ideas of a lone member to meet a deadline for preliminary suggestions, reflecting the daunting nature of its job and some troubles within the panel.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

 

Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency asked lawmakers Monday for money to solve mounting problems -- foster kids sleeping in offices, children lost in the system, and a skyrocketing caseload.

Legislators and advocates expressed outrage earlier at news that children slept in foster care contractors’ offices because foster homes had no room. Department for Children and Families secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said some of the requested money would go toward holding beds open for hard-to-place kids.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

When Kansans on Medicaid are incarcerated or treated at residential mental health facilities, their Medicaid benefits are terminated. Mental health advocates hope to change that during the upcoming legislative session by pushing for a bill that would instead suspend those benefits.

After patients or inmates are dropped from Medicaid, it can take weeks or months to reinstate health coverage — a risk for people who need continuous care for mental health conditions.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Osawatomie State Hospital is again eligible for millions of dollars in federal Medicare payments after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recertified its acute care center.

The state psychiatric hospital lost its certification in December 2015 after the reported rape of an employee exposed security concerns and staffing shortages. A subsequent inspection in May 2017 revealed problems with sanitation, infection control and fire safety.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

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.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Descriptions of an underfunded, under-resourced foster care system short on child placement options sounded familiar to Kansas lawmakers and child welfare advocates at a task force meeting this week.

But the events described Tuesday actually played out 30 years earlier, when a 1989 class-action lawsuit — alleging that the state’s foster care system violated the rights of Kansas children — raised issues that eventually led to the current privatized system.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

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.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

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.

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