Kansas foster care system has work to do to meet settlement terms

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Kansas is learning just how good progress it has made in its required efforts to reform the state’s foster care system. Third-party report released Monday shows state still has work to do to meet terms of settlement of 2018 class action lawsuit. Case seeks to ensure mental health needs are addressed and to end situations where adoptive children in Kansas have to sleep in offices.

In the report released on Monday, remaining areas of concern include job placement, mental health care and workload. the report shows that the state and the Kansas Department of Children and Families are making significant progress in some areas to improve the system.

Some of the groups that filed the complaint said it shows a continued need for investment in serving children in the foster care system.

“Have a basic understanding of what’s improving and what’s not and where we need to dig,” Kansas Appleseed campaign manager Mike Fonkert said.

Some of these areas of progress include oversight, accountability and stability of placements, thereby reducing the number of moves.

“Eighty-six percent of the cases reviewed revealed that the child was in a stable placement. The first year target was 80%,” said Leecia Welch, Legal Director of Children’s Rights.

Where the DCF and the state have failed is in ending temporary overnight placements in which children sleep in offices or hotels. Another concern is overnight placements. Both practices were supposed to have ceased at the end of last year.

“(What) the administration has learned through this process is that, particularly for children who have particular difficulties, particular medical conditions or behavioral problems, there are not a lot of resources “said Teresa Woody, Kansas Appleseed’s director of litigation.

Mental health was another off-the-record area, with only 34% of children in DCF care receiving timely mental health and trauma screening, according to the third-party report.

“It’s hard to get sanity for kids in general, let alone in the foster care system,” Woody said.

To work toward the necessary improvements identified in the report, the groups that filed the lawsuit say they need state lawmakers to invest in those areas, so that resources are available. Other areas need improvement, they say, including data reporting and greater consistency between the private contractors used by DFC. This is part of a multi-year effort that aims to achieve many of these goals by the end of next year.

State and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s office highlighted the success of the improvements, with about 1,300 fewer children in the system. The state has also recognized areas needing improvement, particularly mental health.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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