Kansas Child Welfare Agency Turnover Aimed At Turnaround

Kansas-Child Welfare Changes

May 19, 2018 - 8:38 pm

The leader of Kansas' child welfare department says the many staff changes in the agency since November are designed to turn around an agency that faced scrutiny for months over foster care problems.

Some 20 administrators in the state Department for Children and Families have been fired, shifted to new jobs or promoted in the past 6½ months, KCUR-FM reports . The changes included the dismissals of two staff members in the Wichita regional office earlier this spring in response to "concerning trends" in the region.

Department Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said staffing changes come both from a desire to reshape the overwhelmed agency and from concerns about some staff members' actions.

"Part of it is wanting to make sure we have the right people in the right position and doing the right work," she said. "As we've looked at other things, we've made changes because we do have concern or we're worried about somebody not being ethical or somebody not being proactive enough."

Meier-Hummel took over as secretary in December, following the retirement of former Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who had faced calls from legislators for her resignation. A scathing state audit of the foster care system in July 2016 concluded that Kansas was putting vulnerable children at risk by struggling to provide adequate oversight for contractors providing services.

The department also has faced questions about several high-profile deaths of abused children in recent years after DCF was alerted to problems, including three in the Wichita area. One involved a 3-year-old Wichita boy whose body was found in September encased in concrete at the home where his mother and her boyfriend lived.

And the number of abused and neglected children in foster care has continued rising, up 8 percent over the past 12 months, to almost 7,700 at the end of April.

Meier-Hummel announced a top-to-bottom review of her agency when she took over. She and her staff also have taken questions during visits to 18 of the Department's 36 regional offices.

Kansas City regional director Tammy Thomas said her office plans to use recently approved budget increases to pay for 12 new staff positions. Some will form a "float" team that can travel from county to county.

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