Foster Care Committee continues work

In a wide-ranging discussion after two days of testimony, members of the Special Committee on Foster Care spoke about either changes that they would like the committee to recommend to the Legislature or issues they would like to study further. No votes on any specific recommendations were made. The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 20-21.

State Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, said the state needs to address reoccurring issues, such as complaints that foster children are moved too often and their school records often don’t follow them when they enroll in a new school.

State Rep. Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam, said he wanted to pursue again legislation he has previously introduced that would set up a state office of child advocacy. Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, who is chair of the Senate Education Committee, said she would support that.

Other suggestions by committee members included establishing an independent agency to investigate child deaths and reducing the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children.

On Tuesday, the committee heard experts address the issue of “crossover youth” – children in both foster care and the juvenile justice system. It was also briefed efforts to improve coordination across various state agencies dealing with foster care issues.

Foster care in Kansas has been under scrutiny for several years, including a lawsuit against the system. In addition, Governor Laura Kelly issued an executive order requiring a state report card on education outcomes for student in foster care beginning this year. Most data show these students lagging far behind in educational progress, which results in lower economic, social and health outcomes as adults.

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