Committee hears foster care, child welfare reports; new chair pledges efforts to protect childrenScott Rothschild
The House Children and Seniors Committee on Tuesday heard reports on foster care and child welfare. The committee’s new chairwoman pledged to redouble legislative efforts to protect children.
Communities in Schools of Mid-America Executive Vice President of Strategy and Services Kelly Stanford briefed the committee on the organization’s work with Kansas school districts to provide resources and support to students and families to keep children from being placed in foster care due to neglect. Stanford told the committee CISMA’s four-year-old project in the southeast Kansas communities of Pittsburg and Chanute has helped elementary school students stay in their homes despite double-digit county-wide increases in the rates of children removed for neglect. No Pittsburg Elementary School students served by CIS have been removed from their homes due to neglect since the project began; in Chanute, two students were removed for reasons of neglect early in the pilot but not since then. The organization’s work is funded by a contributions from the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF), local school district general fund, Title I or at-risk money and support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“The Communities in Schools model is highly researched and evidence-based,” Stanford said. “There’s a role for our organization to play in strengthening families and keeping kids out of foster care.”
Bob Gallimore presented the Kansas Legislative Research Department’s report on the Child Welfare System Task Force that was directed by the 2017 Legislature in the wake of an audit that found problems with DCF’s supervision of children in foster care and a number of logistical and policy challenges. The task force will deliver a final report in 2019, but its preliminary recommendations include:
- Recruiting and retaining more social workers and evaluate the morale and tenure of the work force;
- Improve record keeping and continuity of services so that caseworker turnover doesn’t affect delivery of services;
- Add more psychiatric residential treatment facilities for children and youth;
- Consider the impact on the child welfare system of the consolidation of juvenile services within the Kansas Department of Corrections.
The full preliminary report is here.
Rep. Erin Davis, R-Olathe, assumed chairmanship of the committee after former chair Rep. Steve Alford, R-Ulysses, was removed from the panel in the wake of racist remarks at a community forum. Following the Communities in Schools and Legislative Research presentations, Davis said the committee would devote significant time in 2018 to address the needs of children and the concerns raised in the Task Force report. Without legislative action, Davis noted, the recommendations “mean nothing. Dig into these reports and ask questions when [agency representatives] are here. There’s still much work to be done.”