Madeline Fox

Reporter, Kansas News Service

Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service covering foster care, mental health and military and veterans’ issues.

Madeline caught the bug for Kansas reporting as a college intern at the Wichita Eagle. She also worked at WLRN in South Florida, where she covered everything from parades to protests to presidential residences and got swiftly addicted to Cuban coffee.

She cut her teeth as a political reporter covering transportation for the Medill News Service in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in U.S. News, Military Times, The Miami Herald, NPR Weekend Edition and others.

A native of Portland, Oregon but a Chicagoan at heart, Madeline graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a second major in international studies that she mostly used as an excuse to study abroad in Spain and conduct research in the Paris suburbs.

Ways to Connect

Gene Bicknell’s name is all over the campus of Pittsburg State University, his alma mater. It’s on a sports complex. The arts center is simply known as the “Bicknell,” after the homegrown entrepreneur.

But while he’s beloved as a civic booster in Pittsburg, the former businessman is far less endeared to tax officials in Topeka, from whom he’s just wrested back $48 million in revenue.

Hutchinson building official Trent Maxwell recalls the city, years back, inspecting the home of a woman whose gas had been shut off for nearly a year.

“She was using one burner on the electric stove to heat water to bathe her little kids,” he said.

The woman finally got fed up and called city officials. She’d held off, she said, because her landlord threatened to land her in jail if she summoned inspectors. That wasn’t true. But she believed the threat.

“No one,” Maxwell said, “should have to live like that.”

Twice, Rep. Jarrod Ousley introduced bills that would create a watchdog over the Kansas agency in charge of looking after children from troubled families.

It’s a massive department hounded by stories of overlooked abuse cases and foster children caught in punishing patterns of shifting from one temporary home to the next.

Ousley says he’s dropping the idea of a state child advocate. For now.

Before Laura Kelly took over as governor, the Kansas Department for Children and Families overhauled which private companies would manage its child welfare system, and how the department would oversee their work.

Kelly put the brakes on that whole plan in December.

On Thursday, she announced she’d be rolling back major parts of the changes. She canceled grants with two companies and said the state would renegotiate grants with three companies.

Nicole Nesmith’s voice shakes a little when she recalls the night her child, Phoenix, revealed a painful secret.

“Phoenix got really quiet and was like, ‘I have something to tell you and I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but I’ve been cutting for about a month now.’”

Kansas’ new governor wants to fix the state’s foster care. Fast.

Laura Kelly isn’t the first governor to highlight a crisis in child welfare, or to inject cash into the Department for Children and Families.

Expectations run high for Kelly, who sat on a task force examining the child welfare system for more than a year. She’s made fixing foster care a high priority — it was one of just three topics she homed in on in her State of the State address last week.

Kansas goes further than any other state in kicking local and state government out of decisions about nutrition labels and portion sizes, leaving that and other food policy up to federal lawmakers.

In a recent study, New York University researcher Jennifer Pomeranz said Kansas did more to limit local control than the 13 other states that passed similar laws.

Kansas Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids hoped to spend her first day in Congress helping to end a partial shutdown of the federal government.

Instead, she got a first-hand look at the gridlock that has characterized the nation's politics and frustrated voters in recent years.

Shortly after being sworn in as one of the first two Native American women to ever serve in Congress, Davids voted for a compromise funding package to end the budget stalemate.

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly announced Thursday that she’s replacing the head of the state’s embattled child welfare agency, and at the same time putting on hold new grants for private contractors to manage foster care and family preservation services.

African-American children are much more likely to land in the Kansas foster care system than white children.

A report from Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, a coalition of organizations and people who have experience with the foster care system, concluded that Kansas falls in line with national trends. But the disparity in Kansas, with black children 75 percent more likely than white children to be pulled from their homes, has gotten worse in the past two years.

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