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Kansas child welfare agency failed to meet 16 standards

August 30, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — 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 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. And children were adopted in less than two years just 17.6 percent of time. The standard is nearly 27 percent.

The report “tells us we still have a long ways to go,” said Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat and member of a state child welfare task force, which received the report on Monday.

The agency also missed standards related to placing children in permanent homes within a year and minimizing re-entry into foster care, and kept children in the same school 15.7 percent of the time when the standard is at least 25 percent of the time.

Department spokeswoman Taylor Forrest said in a statement that the agency has implemented several projects to improve its service to children and families.

The agency did meet some standards, such as a finding that 6.4 percent of the children who had been mistreated were mistreated again, below the standard of 9.1 percent.

About 4,200 children were placed into foster care last year in Kansas, with 3,800 leaving foster care during that time. At the end of June, nearly 7,600 children were in foster care in Kansas.

Since Gina Meier-Hummel replaced Phyllis Gilmore as secretary in December 2017, the department has made several other leadership and policy changes.

Forrest said DCF will begin using a new system with real-time data in January to be more efficient at finding foster homes for children. To improve overall performance, the agency has begun “rapid permanency reviews,” in which case managers and supervisors participate in reviews and must take steps to improve.

The agency also is testing a new program called Icebreakers, which is intended to facilitate conversations between birth parents and foster parents within 10 days of a long-term foster care placement. The program will be implemented statewide in 2019.

DCF is shifting its focus to the entire family rather than individual children to “change the culture around non-abuse and neglect assignments,” Forrest said.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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