"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.