"The harsh realities of Kansas’ foster care system should be front and center as the new administration takes office and the legislative session begins. Each day at FosterAdopt Connect, we see the trauma imposed on children in the system. Until Kansas kids receive the care they’re entitled to, the spotlight must remain brightly focused on our child welfare system.
The number of children in Kansas foster care is still near record highs. According to a class-action lawsuit, kids in care bounce from placement to placement at dangerously high rates, disrupting their schooling and access to mental and behavioral health services.
According to a new report from the Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope coalition, the number of kids in family-like settings is at its lowest level in at least a decade. The average length of stay for kids in care increased to its highest level in over 10 years (21.1 months). Kansas also hit record levels for splitting up siblings in care and kids’ likelihood to reenter care after leaving."
"Foster care: The governor-elect has promised to pursue fundamental reforms in the state’s child welfare and foster care system. This overhaul is long overdue.
Some of the needed changes can be handled by the executive branch alone. If the Department for Children and Families needs additional resources, though, lawmakers should provide them.
They should also restore recent cuts to aid for poor families. “Kansas must address the large gaps in the social safety net,” said a recent report by Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, a child welfare coalition. 'It seems unlikely that these reductions are not contributing to the foster care crisis.'"
"Kansas must fix a troubled, under-funded child welfare system now or more vulnerable children across the state will suffer.
That’s the message from members of a coalition that released a report Thursday detailing woes inside the state’s child welfare system — from racial disparities in the children being removed from their homes to kids lingering in state custody too long. The coalition, Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, spent the past year hosting town hall meetings and identifying what has gone wrong in Kansas and why.
Now, the coalition hopes child welfare leaders and legislators — as well as average citizens across the state — take notice of the problems and solutions proposed in the report.
'The problems are staring us in the face every day,' said Quinn Ried, policy research analyst with Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit justice center that is a leading member of the coalition. 'Thousands of kids every day are being failed by the system designed to protect them.'
"'We can’t go into another year without having solid answers and resolutions to some of these problems,' said Tara Wallace, president of the African American Foster Care/Adoption Coalition’s Topeka chapter. 'We can’t afford for it to be too late again for our kids. They are more than a number, and a report that’s going to be filed away in somebody’s cabinet — we owe them so much better than this.'"
One way to solve some of the issues facing families, the coalition said, is for the state to improve funding for programs like food stamp benefits and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. In the past four years, money from those programs has decreased significantly in Kansas and families have suffered, the report said."
KCUR: Advocates: Black Kids Are More Likely To Land In Foster Care, Just One Thing That Needs Fixing
A report from Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, a coalition of organizations and people who have experience with the foster care system, concluded that Kansas falls in line with national trends.
But the disparity in Kansas, with black children 75 percent more likely than white children to be pulled from their homes, has gotten worse in the past two years. Coalition member Tara Wallace said that reflects the strain of having a record number of kids in foster care in Kansas.
“At the rate we’re going,” she said, “this situation is only perpetuating itself.”
Wallace is the president of the Topeka chapter of the Kansas African American Foster Care/Adoption Coalition. She joined five former foster youth, representatives of social workers and the ACLU, the foster parent organization FosterAdopt Connect, the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs, Kansas Appleseed and other individuals with past or current experience working in child welfare to form the coalition’s steering committee.
The report released Thursday morning echoes concerns brought up by a task forceexamining Kansas foster care and a recently filed federal lawsuit that alleges Kansas has rendered children in its care effectively homeless with frequent moves.
Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope recommended Kansas better support struggling families with improvements to safety net programs such as food stamps and cash welfare.
“Families are on this tightrope,” said Becky Fast, a coalition member who heads the National Association of Social Workers’ Kansas chapter. “When you don’t have food assistance, cash assistance, that our state used to provide, that often knocks them off.”
New Report Provides Reform Recommendations
December 20, 2018
(TOPEKA, KANSAS) –The number of children in Kansas foster care hit record highs this year. Today, the Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope coalition released a report identifying key problems in Kansas’s child welfare system and recommendations for reform.
Too many Kansas children are in foster care, and they are entering at racially disproportionate rates. The ratio of Kansas kids in foster care per 1,000 is nearly double the national ratio, and African American children are 75 percent more likely than white children to enter Kansas foster care.
“I have consistently seen and experienced the problems identified in this report since I began practicing in 2013,” said Tara Wallace, president, African American Foster Care/Adoption Coalition’s Topeka chapter. “Children are facing more trauma, confusion, disruption...kids feel like they’re being abandoned again and again.”
Kansas children are in foster care for too long. More youth enter the system than exit each year, contributing to the rising number of kids in care. Once in care, youth do not find permanency in a timely manner, which negatively affects behavior and long-term wellbeing.
Youth in care experience high placement instability. The average child in Kansas care moves 10.3 times per 1,000 days—2.5 times more than the performance standard—and many youth sleep in a new place every night.
To prevent kids from entering care, the report recommends supporting Kansas families by strengthening the safety net.
“We see the restrictive policy changes that have reduced thousands of families’ access to critical safety net programs as one of the biggest reasons for the increase of kids in foster care,” said Scott Anglemyer, executive director of the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs.
According to the report, the Family First Prevention Services Act should be fully implemented, which will expand child welfare services before, during and after foster care. Kansas should substantially increase funding for family preservation services.
To combat systemic racial disparities, Kansas must engage external expertise and focus on racial biases which lead to higher reporting and investigation levels for families of color.
By improving conditions for those working in foster care and providing greater oversight of the system, Kansas kids in care will experience improved service delivery and the stability they are entitled to.
“Turnover, retention and high caseloads have not improved,” said Becky Fast, executive director, Kansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. “It’s impacting the children that we serve and the care they receive.”
Read the full report here.
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About Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope: Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope is an independent coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to reforming Kansas's foster care system. As part of our efforts to develop effective recommendations, SFRH hosted and participated in events and community forums in Garden City, Manhattan, Pittsburg, Prairie Village, Salina, Topeka, and Wichita. For more information about the Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope coalition, visit www.RebuildHopeKansas.org.
"According to an expert advocate, the Kansas foster care system is in crisis.
Benet Magnuson, Executive Director of the Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, discussed contributing factors and possible solutions to the increasing number of children in the Kansas foster care system during a Lunch and Learn Tuesday afternoon at the Salina Public Library. The presentation was organized by the Salina League of Women voters.
At the end of June 2018, there were about 7,600 Kansas children in foster care who were removed from their original home due to neglect, physical or sexual abuse, substance use, problems in the parent-child relationship, or other concerns. Children leave the foster care system when they are can be safely reunited with their original family, are adopted by another family, or age out of the foster care system.
The number of Kansas children in foster care increased by more than 46% in the last seven years, according to data from the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), which represents about 2,400 additional kids."
"Child welfare workers investigating abuse and neglect are supposed to carry a maximum caseload of about 15.
But in the Kansas City area, workers for the Kansas Department for Children and Families recently carried an average of 55 cases. Statewide, the number was 38.
“It’s disturbing and shocking to see these numbers and all the other numbers coming out recently,” said Benet Magnuson, executive director of Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit justice center serving vulnerable and excluded Kansans. 'It’s also pretty disturbing to think that the system wouldn’t be aware of these problems that have been going on many years. ... I would say that some people have been sounding the alarm.'
Overwhelming caseloads can be too much for workers, said Lori Burns-Bucklew, a Kansas City attorney and accredited child welfare law specialist.
'That’s an area of work where people are prone to secondary trauma and burnout,' Burns-Bucklew said. 'No wonder it is hard to keep workers if they have that high of caseload.'"
Content warning: The article below concerns rape
"After months of headlines about missing runaways, foster children sleeping in offices and high-profile deaths, this was the last thing the Kansas Department for Children and Families wanted to see.
A 13-year-old in the state’s custody reportedly was raped inside a child welfare office in Olathe. And the young man charged with the assault earlier this month also was in Kansas’ care. Both were at the KVC Behavioral Healthcare office waiting to be placed in an available foster home or facility.
'It’s tragedies like that that folks have been deeply worried was going to happen,' said Benet Magnuson, executive director of Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit justice center serving vulnerable and excluded Kansans. 'It’s one of these moments: if this doesn’t shake us and get us to take action at the deep level that’s needed, I don’t know what will.'
One criticism of the Kansas system, and many state child welfare systems across the country, is that too many kids come into care. Keep kids with their families whenever possible, advocates often say. And concentrate on making that family stronger."
Content warning: The article below concerns rape.
"A Johnson County teenager has been charged with raping a 13-year-old at an Olathe child welfare office where children have been kept overnight because of a shortage of foster care beds...The incident was reported May 5 at the KVC Behavioral Healthcare office, according to police records obtained by The Star.
The youths were at the office that evening awaiting placement in available foster homes or facilities, said Taylor Forrest, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, which oversees KVC’s foster care contract with the state. One staff member was supervising the two teens and another youth, Forrest said.
Lawmakers learned last fall that because of a shortage of foster homes and residential beds, contractors had resorted to having kids — many of them with extreme needs and hard to place — sleep in offices overnight when needed.
Lori Burns-Bucklew, a Kansas City attorney and accredited child welfare law specialist, said she has worried for months about the well being of those kids. 'They talked about those kids being difficult to place,' she said. But 'you’re not going to improve behavior by putting them in an unstable living place. Nobody deserves that.'"