Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced Friday that she will retire at the start of December.
Numerous lawmakers have called for Gilmore’s removal in response to issues with the foster care system, including news in September that children were sleeping in the offices of foster care contractors when placements couldn’t be found.
DCF oversees the state’s privatized foster care system, and two contractors provide foster care services. In recent years, the state has set records for the number of children in foster care.
State Rep. Jarrod Ousley, a Merriam Democrat who helped start the child welfare task force looking into DCF’s handling of foster care, said Gilmore’s retirement opens the door for improvements.
“We have an opportunity here to start top-down rebuilding of our foster care system in the state of Kansas,” he said.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who has been a vocal critic of the secretary, said Gilmore’s retirement is overdue but won’t solve all of the agency’s problems.
“That’s just the first step,” he said. “What we need to do is focus on her replacement and make sure that person is committed to making the changes in that agency that are desperately needed to protect those children.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback said the decision about Gilmore’s replacement will be made in the coming weeks.
Brownback soon may leave his job as governor, as he awaits U.S. Senate confirmation for his nomination as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Madeline Fox is a reporter or the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox.
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