The Latest: Outgoing child welfare chief says grants on hold

January 3, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly’s appointment of an interim leader for both the state’s child welfare department and another agency. (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

The departing leader of Kansas’ child welfare agency says it has put new grants to foster care contractors on hold at the request of Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly.

Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel announced the move Thursday after Kelly said she would replace Meier-Hummel at the Department for Children and Families. Kelly takes office Jan. 14.

Meier-Hummel said the grants awarded in November to five nonprofit organizations are in the best interest of children and families. The four-year grants are set to start July 1 and will increase state spending on foster care by $35 million a year.

Kelly is a critic of the no-bid process for awarding the grants and accused DCF on Thursday of not being transparent. Meier-Hummel said the process has been open and the agency has been transparent.


1:45 p.m.

A top Republican lawmaker says he had hoped Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly would retain the current leader of the state’s child welfare agency at the start of her new administration.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said Thursday that he was hoping Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel would be given “a little more runway to prove herself” at the Department for Children and Families. The Overland Park Republican said DCF is a difficult agency to manage.

Kelly instead announced she will appoint Laura Howard as interim DCF secretary and interim secretary at the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Howard has worked for federal and state social services agencies and now directs a University of Kansas management center.

Kansas House Speaker and Olathe Republican Ron Ryckman Jr. said DCF was improving under Meier-Hummel.


11:30 a.m.

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly has named a social services veteran to be the interim leader of both the state’s child welfare agency and another department.

The incoming Democratic governor announced Thursday that Laura Howard will serve as interim secretary of both the Department for Children and Families and the Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Kelly spokeswoman Ashley All said the interim appointment will give Kelly time to find permanent secretaries once she takes office Jan. 14 but added that Howard could remain in one of the jobs permanently.

Howard is director of the Public Management Center at the University of Kansas. But she’s worked as a regional manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as a deputy secretary for health care policy for the state.

Update hourly