Report: Kansas foster care system has work to do to meet settlement terms
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansas is learning how well progress is going in its required efforts to reform the state’s foster care system. The third-party report out Monday shows the state has more work to do to meet the settlement terms of a 2018 class-action lawsuit. That case is looking to make sure that mental health needs are addressed and to end situations where foster children in Kansas have to sleep in offices.
In the report released Monday, areas of concern that remain include placement, mental health care and caseloads. the report shows the state and Kansas Department of Children and Families are making some significant progress in some areas to improve the system.
Some of the groups that filed the lawsuit said this shows a continued need for investment to serve children in the foster care system.
“Have some baseline understandings of what’s getting better and what’s not and where we need to dig,” said Kansas Appleseed Campaign Director Mike Fonkert.
Some of those areas of progress include oversight and accountability and stability in placements, reducing the number of moves.
“Eighty-six percent of the cases reviewed found that the child was in a stable placement. The first-year goal was 80%,” said Children’s Rights Legal Director Leecia Welch.
Where DCF and the state weren’t successful was ending temporary overnight placements in which children are sleeping in offices or hotels. Another concern is the night-to-night placements. Both practices were supposed to have stopped by the end of last year.
“(What) administration has learned through this process is that, particularly for children who have special difficulties, special medical issues or behavioral issues, there are not a lot of resources,” Kansas Appleseed Litigation Director Teresa Woody said.
Mental health was another area off the mark, with only 34% of children in DCF custody getting a timely mental health and trauma screening, the third-party report found.
“It’s hard to get mental health for children in general, let along in the foster care system,” Woody said.
To work toward the needed improvements identified in the report, groups that filed the lawsuit say they need state lawmakers to make investments in these areas, so resources are available. Other areas they say need improvement include data reporting and more consistency between the private contractors DFC uses. This is part of a multi-year effort with the target of meeting many of these goals by the end of next year.
The state and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s office pointed to successes in making improvements, with about 1,300 fewer children in the system. The state also acknowledged areas needing improvement, especially mental health.
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