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foster children

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A polarizing debate over the role of faith-based adoption organizations, and their ability to exclude same-sex couples, has tangled an update of Kansas adoption and foster care laws.

A bill needed to revise the rules passed the House without a dissenting vote in late February. But it drew opposition in the Senate this week when a controversial amendment was added.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Newly-appointed secretary of troubled Kansas child welfare agency on transparency, missing foster kids, and reports of cover-ups and gag orders.

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.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

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.

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.

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.

Capitol at night
Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

Missouri government is still reeling after a week that saw the State of the State address overshadowed by a report by KMOV in St. Louis that Governor Eric Greitens, a Republican, had an affair with an unnamed woman, as revealed in tapes secretly recorded by the woman's former husband. The governor has admitted the affair but denies allegations he attempted to blackmail the woman to keep it quiet.

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.

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. It happened because there weren't other facilities available to immediately take them.

Lawmakers and child advocates heard about the issue during a meeting of a foster care task force in Topeka. Republican Rep. Linda Gallagher is one of the group’s members.

Two national child advocacy organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Social Services, alleging that children in the state’s foster care system are over-prescribed psychotropic medications with little oversight.

“They’re prescribed off-label, to control behaviors,” said Bill Grimm, an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, which filed the lawsuit on Monday. “While many other states have instituted some sort of oversight … Missouri has very little to none of those safeguards in place.”

The suit seeks class action status. State officials declined comment, citing pending litigation.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Legislative Post Audit Committee voted Thursday to delay considering an audit into allegations of bias at the Kansas Department for Children and Families against adoptions by same-sex couples.

The panel of legislators instead voted to create a subcommittee that will develop a proposal for a broader investigation of the state’s foster care and adoption system that will be ready for an up-or-down vote in January.

“When we do it, we have to do it right,” said Rep. Peggy Mast, a Republican from Emporia. “It should be comprehensive."

Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Public schools often go to great lengths to account for their students.

For RosaLinda Aviles, an attendance and dropout specialist for Kansas City Public Schools, it’s her primary duty.

Based at Northeast High School, she helps oversee a nine-school zone. If a student has been absent for several days, teachers will notify her. She and a district social worker then will try to intervene.

"Often the teachers will know a lot more about what's going, so that's helpful," Aviles says. "We then can call, send a letter, or do a home visit."

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The arrest of a Topeka couple on child abuse charges has raised new questions about a custody battle that some say illustrates a pattern of discrimination against gay Kansans seeking to adopt children.

The 2014 custody case pitted a lesbian couple from Wichita, Lisa and Tesa Hines, against Jonathan and Allison Schumm of Topeka for custody of the Hineses’ foster child, Isabella, who had been in their care since she was 5 days old.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Department for Children and Families announced major changes to its standards for substantiating child abuse Tuesday. But lawmakers want more reform of a privatized foster care system they say is failing to protect children.

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced that the agency will begin using a “preponderance of the evidence” as the standard for substantiating a child abuse claim rather than the more stringent “clear and convincing evidence.”

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Growing up in foster care can be challenging, but many of the biggest problems foster children face occur after they age out of the system.

Among the sobering statistics: More than one in five become homeless, nearly three out of four girls become pregnant by age 21 and only half are gainfully employed at age 24, according to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a national foundation that assists young people leaving foster care.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

A Kansas district court judge is raising concerns about reports that state officials are considering policy changes that would prohibit couples who aren’t married from being foster parents.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Less than three weeks after signing a bill that’s expected to drop 700 youngsters from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday urged more Kansas families to open their homes to abused and neglected children.

Since 2007, the number of children in need of foster care in Jackson County has nearly doubled. We speak with Denise Cross, President and CEO of Cornerstones of Care, about what accounts for the increase of need in the area. We also examine how the community is accommodating and caring for children in need of a home.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, you can call Cornerstones of Care toll-free 855-778-5437 or visit www.healthyfamilies4kids.org.

www.kslegislature.org

A state senator who’s proposing a controversial overhaul of the state’s foster care system said on Thursday that he’s decided not to propose paying some foster parents “significantly higher” rates if they meet certain conditions, such as being husband and wife and barring tobacco or alcohol from their home.

“My suggestion is that we change the bill and remove the payment part completely, and expect them to volunteer,” said Sen. Forrest Knox, a Republican from Altoona.

A bill in the Kansas Legislature would create a new class of foster homes. They would have to be heterosexual couples married at least seven years, with no tobacco or alcohol in the home, and they would have to attend a regular social gathering like church. The families would be paid more than other foster care providers.

Republican state Sen. Forrest Knox, who is a licensed foster parent, says the foster care system in Kansas needs some changes. He believes these requirements will provide the best environment for kids.

Two Kansas Foster Care Program Officials Are Out

Dec 3, 2014

A spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families on Tuesday said that Deputy Secretary Kathe Decker and Prevention and Protection Services Director Brian Dempsey have left the agency.

Anna Pilato, director of the department’s divisions for strategic development and community and faith-based initiatives, is due to leave later this month.

Kansas welfare officials said Friday that they have suspended placing foster children with TFI Family Services, pending investigation of the death Thursday of an infant left in a hot car in Wichita.

TFI formerly contracted with the Kansas Department for Children and Families to provide foster services and continues to have foster homes as a subcontractor to the state's current lead foster care contractors, KVC Behavioral Healthcare of Olathe and St. Francis Community Services of Salina.

Online Tool Helps Match Foster Children, Families

Jun 27, 2014

The University of Kansas and a child advocacy group have developed an online tool that helps social workers match adoptive families with children in foster care.

The tool, called Every Child a Priority, or ECAP, uses statistical analysis and technology to figure out which families are most likely to meet a child’s needs.

“Essentially, ECAP is an enhanced matchmaking service for children and families,” Mike Patrick, chief executive at TFI Family Services Inc., said in a prepared statement.

Cathy Mores / KHI News Service

The number of Kansas children in foster care has reached an all-time high. The explanations why vary.

In April, there were 6,156 children in the system. That’s 356 more children than in April 2013 and 872 more than two years earlier.

Dona Booe, chief executive of the Kansas Children's Service League, sees the escalating numbers as evidence of a building crisis.

Foster children often overcome a great deal in life. Many have to take charge of their own wellbeing at a young age, and learn to navigate a complex system of care-providers from state to local agencies.

But the real obstacles can begin when they leave the system. In a number of states, children age of out foster care at 21 years old, but in Kansas it is 18. 

On today's Central Standard, we explore the foster care system in Kansas.

Guests: 

Some years ago Mike Fox, traveling in Thailand, learned about the plight of Karen refugees fleeing political repression in Burma.