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foster care

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

A day after her son Asher was born, state social workers paid a visit to Amber Johnson in the hospital. She had tested positive for meth, marijuana and painkillers during her pregnancy and, fearful she would lose her son, told them about her addiction.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

The number of children in foster care in Kansas went down in May and June, the first such two-month drop in more than a year.

Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division

Segment 1: Controversy in Missouri and Kansas foster care. 

The foster care systems in Missouri and Kansas have been making headlines lately. In Missouri, the prescribing and administering of psychotropic drugs is at the center of litigation that just became a class action case. In Kansas, the Adoption Protection Act allows smaller agencies to deny potential parents adoption or fostering based on the agency's religious beliefs. We got an update on what's happening on both sides of the state line. 

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A lawsuit charging Missouri officials have failed to properly oversee the administration of psychotropic medications to children in foster care was certified Thursday as a class action.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A new system for hiring agencies to coordinate adoptions and foster care placements in Kansas will continue to let some groups cite religious beliefs to exclude some prospective parents — including gay couples.

The Department for Children and Families earlier this week had left lawmakers confused about whether a new grant system would extend those religious protections to the agencies taking over statewide foster care and family preservation contracts.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A restructuring of how Kansas hires agencies to manage foster care and adoptions could allow widespread exclusion of placements with gay parents — a revelation Monday that prompted objections from some lawmakers.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

So far this month, eastern Kansas foster care contractor KVC Kansas hasn’t had any kids sleep in its offices. St. Francis, the contractor for the rest of the state, has had four kids overnight, according to the latest update from the state child welfare agency.

In recent months, each of those contractors logged dozens of overnight stays per month.

Evan Pflugradt / Kansas News Service

Teenage girls aging out of foster care in Kansas will soon have a new place to stay and learn the basics of living independently — with the help of some nuns.

St. Francis Community Services, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, is taking over the former convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Wichita to house foster care, refugee and behavioral health programs.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Adrian Jones. Evan Brewer. Conner Hawes. Lucas Hernandez.

News coverage of those children’s deaths and others under the state’s watch galvanized public outrage over the past three years and drew more scrutiny to the troubled child welfare system in Kansas.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Children entering the Kansas foster care system will soon have a new short-term place to stay in Kansas City.

With kids sleeping in their offices several nights a month, KVC Kansas, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, has been looking to open some sort of crisis center for the past year.

Scott Canon / Kansas News Service

The Kansas child welfare agency is splitting foster care from family preservation services.

The Department for Children and Families put out its call for separate grantees Thursday.

The state’s two current contractors — KVC Kansas in the Kansas City metro and eastern region, and St. Francis Community Services in Wichita and the western region — have been managing foster care and services aimed at keeping struggling families together.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer has signed into law a measure allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to get state reimbursement for placement services — even if they turn away prospective parents on religious grounds.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Some 20 administrators in the Kansas agency managing child welfare and state assistance have been promoted, fired or shifted to other posts since November.

Gina Meier-Hummel was tapped to take over the Department for Children and Families nearly six months ago and says now that the changes have been aimed at strengthening the agency as it confronts a rising caseload of children in care.

file photo / Kansas News Service

In an election year with a state Supreme Court ruling hanging over their heads, Kansas lawmakers wrestled over school spending, taxes and guns.

They fought among themselves and often split ways from legislators they’d chosen as leaders.

In the end, they decided not to throw a tax cut to voters. It would have partly reversed tough political choices they made a year before to salvage state government’s troubled financial ledger.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Legislature has narrowly approved a controversial measure allowing faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in Kansas to be reimbursed by the state for placement services, even if they turn away prospective parents who don’t fit their religious beliefs.

The bill that includes the provisions constituting the “Adoption Protection Act” passed the House shortly before midnight Thursday with the bare minimum 63 votes in favor with 58 against. The Senate followed suit a couple hours later on a 24-15 vote. In a statement, Gov. Jeff Colyer said he would sign it.

file photo / Kansas News Service

In the last year, the number of Cherokee County children in state custody shot up by roughly half.

The places available for those kids to stay, meanwhile, hasn’t changed.

So that’s meant shipping them two hours away — and regularly taking deputies from the 19-person sheriff’s department off patrol to drive the children to Andover, Kansas — the closest place available with any room.

photo illustration / Kansas News Service

Janelle DuBree didn’t need statistics to see that foster kids are traumatized. The evidence was spilled, smashed and smeared all over her kitchen and down the hallway.

Two of the younger girls she took in, on one of their first nights in her Emporia home, raided the kitchen around 2 a.m. Eggs were cracked and trailed everywhere — on the floor, the countertops, the side of the refrigerator. Her carpet was soaked in bright red Hawaiian Punch.

DuBree adopted the girls, now 7 and 9, from a place where food wasn’t always available. So when it was plentiful, they took out and ate everything they could.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Department for Children and Families is opening up child protection services jobs to people who aren’t licensed social workers.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A bill to update state adoption law was sailing through the legislature. Until it wasn’t.

It’s been gummed up because of a faith-based protection provision that would allow adoption agencies to receive state funding while turning away prospective parents who don’t fit with an organization’s religious beliefs.

file photo

A polarizing debate over the role of faith-based adoption organizations, and their ability to exclude same-sex couples, has tangled an update of Kansas adoption and foster care laws.

A bill needed to revise the rules passed the House without a dissenting vote in late February. But it drew opposition in the Senate this week when a controversial amendment was added.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Newly-appointed secretary of troubled Kansas child welfare agency on transparency, missing foster kids, and reports of cover-ups and gag orders.

DCF

A bill before Kansas lawmakers says faith-based child agencies should not be required to place children in families if it conflicts with the religious values of the organization.

The private groups currently can choose not to serve some people, such as single parents or same-sex couples.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are considering creating a watchdog based outside the state’s child welfare agency, but with access to inside information.

A bill to create a child advocate to review the Department for Children and Families comes after years of horror stories of abused children who ended up injured, missing or dead.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ child welfare agency wants to hire a second full-time investigator to track down kids missing from the state’s foster system.

The move comes in the wake of reports last October, when the Department for Children and Families was run by Phyllis Gilmore, that the agency had lost track of three sisters who’d run away from a Tonganoxie foster home.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

A call sets it off.

One of Kansas’ two foster care contractors learns another child has landed in state custody. It has four hours to pick the kid up.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Newly installed Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer described his state Wednesday as vibrant but with trouble spots, telling lawmakers he plans to charge ahead at its problems.

Colyer promised to reform the state’s struggling foster care system, improve its privatized Medicaid program, open government activities into clearer public view and help more Kansans find jobs.

The speech was effectively a State of the State speech by a former two-term lieutenant governor now one week into higher office and trying to distinguish himself from his unpopular running mate, former Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback delivered a formal State of the State address last month.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Troubles in the Kansas foster care system might stem in large part from a shortage of places that can help children in psychiatric crisis, say some lawmakers and child advocate groups.

Since 2013, the number of psychiatric residential treatment facilities in Kansas has dropped from 11 to eight, with 222 fewer available beds.

file photo / Heartland Health Monitor

If nothing else, Sam Brownback has marked his time as governor of Kansas with one bold approach after the next. And few remade the status quo as much as his approach to welfare.

That sprung from his belief that even a well-meaning government that fails to prod the poor toward self-reliance ends up creating more dependency and stubborn poverty.

Like his record on such issues as game-shifting tax cuts, the results are arguably mixed.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

 


A task force formed to fix Kansas’ troubled foster care system relied largely on the ideas of a lone member to meet a deadline for preliminary suggestions, reflecting the daunting nature of its job and some troubles within the panel.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

 

Kansas’ troubled child welfare agency asked lawmakers Monday for money to solve mounting problems -- foster kids sleeping in offices, children lost in the system, and a skyrocketing caseload.

Legislators and advocates expressed outrage earlier at news that children slept in foster care contractors’ offices because foster homes had no room. Department for Children and Families secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said some of the requested money would go toward holding beds open for hard-to-place kids.

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