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Government

Kansas To Make Changes To Foster Home Inspections

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From AP:

Kansas welfare officials plan to have agency staffers perform all annual foster home inspections by midway through next year.

The Department for Children and Families officials updated lawmakers Wednesday on the agency's efforts to respond to a highly critical audit and other reform efforts. Among other things, it plans to have staffers instead of contractors conduct the annual inspections of foster homes, due to potential conflicts of interest, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

"The reason for this position is that the exclusive source of CPAs' funding is the placement of children in foster homes and the associated case-rate compensation that flows from that placement," the agency's deputy general counsel, Kaey Rogg, told the Legislative Post Audit Committee. "This could create an institutional bias against conducting thorough inspections."

Rogg said performing the inspections will require about 15 new DCF workers, with the cash to pay the employees coming from the child-placing agencies.

Lawmakers also questioned agency staff about foster parent and social worker recruitment. Kansas has about 6,500 children in foster care, which is nearly a record high.

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, said that when he was a judge, children would be placed in foster homes 150 or 200 miles away from their families. He noted that reintegration back to the family is the ultimate goal, but asked how it could happen with children placed so far away.

Rogg said the agency is undertaking many efforts related to recruiting. He said a stakeholders meeting last week drew 50 participants to speak about recruiting strategies.

"It's definitely a priority for us and in licensing we're working hard to make sure we're not the barrier in that process," Rogg said.

Andrew Wiens, the DCF's policy and legislative affairs director, said a number of steps had been taken to address staffing. He said money lawmakers approved for increased social worker pay had resulted in "some positive efforts," but he added "it's certainly ongoing," Wiens said.

The agency said last month 463 staff positions were open, with an annual turnover rate of 18.9 percent. The agency also said it was holding open other positions as it assesses the need for those positions.