TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are recommending a review of the state’s privatized child welfare model to determine whether it’s in the state’s best interest.
The Child Welfare System Task Force received the request Monday from two working groups created to examine the system of programs operated within the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Lawrence Journal-World reported .
Kansas enacted the privatized model in 1996 as part of a settlement in a case that said the child welfare system at the time violated the constitutional rights of children in state custody.
The model directs the department to contract with outside nonprofits to manage placing children into homes. There are currently more than 7,000 children in the state’s foster care system waiting to be reunited with their families or placed with adoptive parents. Many have experienced abuse and neglect.
Some lawmakers have said privatization makes it difficult for the state to properly oversee the child welfare system, which has been scrutinized in recent years because of children who died in state custody.
Department Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said the agency’s challenges aren’t due to privatization.
“I think what you see now is the result of a very stressed system that wasn’t built to handle the number of children we currently have in out-of-home care,” Meier-Hummel said. “And we haven’t been doing the prevention services that we need to be doing. So I think if we make wiser investments in the front to help preserve families, then the private system can do what it needs to do.”
It may be time to re-examine the privatized system, said Sen. Laura Kelly, a task force member and the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
“I think we need to take a look at it,” she said. “Clearly that’s a huge part of the child welfare system as we do it in Kansas today, and I assumed that would be part of how we would go forward.”
The task force is expected to make final recommendations to the Legislature at the end of the year.
Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com