"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.'"
"The Kansas agency in charge of child welfare failed to meet 16 standards for keeping children safe and giving them a stable home over the past year.
The Department for Children and Families this week disclosed a report tracking 30 performance measurements. On more than half, the agency’s performance didn’t meet federal and state standards.
The shortfall shows the agency still needs to improve after a year of intense scrutiny that led to changes in leadership and a push for better performance. The DCF said it has implemented several initiatives to improve.
'I’m not sure that there has been a full acknowledgment of the numbers that are on this sheet,' Benet Magnuson, director of the social justice group Kansas Appleseed, said of the report.
The report covered July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018, and used the DCF’s own data. Among its findings:
"Kansas’ child welfare agency failed to meet more than half of 30 federal and state performance standards last year, according to a report that used the agency’s data.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families released the report this week that showed it didn’t meet 16 standards from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. The report comes after a year when the agency changed its leaders amid severe criticism of its performance, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Child welfare advocates said the report shows the depth of the department’s problems. DCF officials said they have responded with several new efforts to improve performance.
'I’m not sure that there has been a full acknowledgment of the numbers that are on this (report),' said Benet Magnuson, director of the social justice group Kansas Appleseed.
Among other things, the report found children had 8.9 homes for every 1,000 days they were in foster care — more than double the standard of 4.12 homes. It also found the agency assessed family strengths and needs within 30 days just 66 percent of the time, below the standard of 95 percent."
"According to the [Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope], there were 7,324 Kansas kids in foster care in January — about 2,000 more compared to five years ago.
'That’s caused our system to really be beyond capacity and that’s created a whole lot of other challenges for kids and the system,' said Michael Pahr, public policy director for Kansas Appleseed, an organization that belongs to the coalition.
The discussion centered around causes and solutions. Pahr said while there has been a rise in reports of potential abuse or neglect, the rate of family preservation service referrals has stayed about the same, so devoting more resources to preservation could stymie the growing utilization of foster care.
He also noted that the number of children served by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families has dropped dramatically. In July 2010, more than 25,000 kids received TANF whereas 7,516 received it in July 2017. Pahr said research has shown a causal connection with child welfare removals."
On February 2, Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope presented to the Kansas legislature’s Child Welfare System Task Force, a group of lawmakers and child welfare stakeholders tasked with making recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of children in the child welfare system. We were honored to bring a diverse set of perspectives from youth leaders and independent advocacy organizations to inform the work of the task force.
Listen to the Child Welfare System Task Force meeting here. (SFRH's presentation begins at 9:12:05.)
Slides and a handout from the presentation can be accessed here.
MANHATTAN, KAN--Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, a coalition of advocacy groups and individuals will host a public forum on foster care issues from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 in the conference room at the Manhattan Fire Department, 2000 Dennison.
The meeting is open to anyone interested in foster care, especially child welfare-involved individuals and families, social workers and foster parents.
“We’re hoping to make the public more aware of some concerns, to hear what concerns may be unique to Manhattan and the surrounding area, to talk about how to make things better, and to take action,” said Lucy McIntyre, an advocate for Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization working towards thriving, inclusive and just Kansas communities. Kansas Appleseed is coordinating the coalition’s efforts.
In recent months, several legislators have questioned both the state Department for Children and Families’ oversight of the state’s foster care contracts, and the record-breaking numbers of children in the state custody.
Kansas’ foster care system cared for about 5,200 children in 2010; today, it cares for more than 7,300.
For more information:
Contact: Christina Ostmeyer
Office: 785-856-0917 | Cell: 785-269-7493
TOPEKA--Today, a group of organizations and individuals launched Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, a coalition advocating for reforms to Kansas’s foster care system. At the end of Nov. 2017, 7,347 Kansas children were in foster care, more children than ever before.
As an independent coalition, whose members do not receive state funding for foster care, Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope is interested in advancing reforms that are in the public interest. The coalition’s steering committee members are FosterAdopt Connect; Kansas African American Foster/Adoption Coalition; Kansas Appleseed; Kansas Association of Community Action Programs; Kansas Chapter of National Association of Social Workers; Sister Therese Bangert, Social Justice Office, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth; Carl Burris, former foster care youth; Micah Kubic, executive director, ACLU Kansas; and Natalie Zarate, former foster care youth.
“I joined the coalition so that youth in foster care don’t have to go through what I went through—so they know they have a voice and that people are listening to them,” Zarate said.
Today, there are over 2,000 more Kansas children in foster care than five years ago with the number of children entering the system substantially rising between fiscal years 2011 and 2013 and remaining high since. Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope is researching the roots of Kansas’s foster care crisis and will provide recommendations for ways to better support families and keep kids safe and out of foster care.
“As research is increasingly confirming, our members have noted that as the state increases barriers to important safety net programs for low-income people, instances of child abuse and neglect rise, ultimately increasing the number of Kansas children in foster care" Scott Anglemyer, Kansas Association of Community Action Programs executive director, said.
“Our hope is that the foster care system follows our lead and moves toward intensive collaboration with community partners to provide a culturally appropriate and comprehensive system of care to children and families in need,” Tara Wallace, Kansas African American Foster Care/Adoption Coalition chair, said.
Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope will host community forums throughout Kansas to share concerns and discuss solutions. The first forum will be in Manhattan, Kan. at 6 p.m. at the Manhattan Fire Department (2000 Denison Ave.).
For more information about Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope’s advocacy, please visit www.RebuildHopeKansas.org.
Contact: Christina Ostmeyer
Office: 785-856-0917 | Cell: 785-269-7493