Kansas child welfare officials are planning to restructure the way they contract for foster care and other child welfare services, and are asking the public to weigh in this week before moving forward.
Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel, secretary for the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), issued a Request for Information (RFI) on Friday. Currently, the state contracts with St. Francis Community Services and KVC Health Systems for foster care services, which have been part of the state’s privatized system since 1997.
Since her appointment in December, Meier-Hummel has been trying to address the concerns of a statewide audit of the state’s privatized system that found a number of concerning practices, including failure to place foster youth near their parents and too many children not receiving mental health or medical services for which they were referred.
As of 2017, the number of youth in Kansas was up 34 percent from 2012.
The report prompted a demand for reform by state lawmakers, and ultimately lead DCF former Secretary Phyllis Gilmore to retire. Meier-Hummel has spent the last few months reviewing foster care services, foster parent licensing and training, family preservation services and other areas of the child welfare system.
“The new foster care contracts will be designed to, among other things, streamline services, promote safety and permanency, increase accountability and prioritize keeping families safely together,” said a DCF statement, made in advance of the agency’s public announcement today.
DCF has recently announced a goal of recruiting 80 more social workers for the agency, and has brought in a successful faith-based organization from Arkansas to assist with recruiting and training more foster parents.
The public will have one week to submit comments to provide suggestions for the new contracts at www.dcf.ks.gov. In addition, a public comment meeting will take place Tuesday, April 24 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the DCF Administration Building at 555 S. Kansas Ave. in Topeka.