foster care

LAWRENCE, Kansas — When school buildings across Kansas shut down in March, parents and students had to adjust to shorter class times, Zoom sessions and take-home packets.

Meanwhile, families in the foster care system faced extra challenges: keeping up with training sessions, therapy appointments and social worker visits.

Kansas let foster care children live in group homes with broken windows, mold, exposed electrical wiring, trashed porches and rodent droppings.

That’s according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Federal inspectors dug into the state’s system of group homes in 2018 and 2019, but their final report only came out this week.

LAWRENCE, Kansas — The state of Kansas has settled a class-action lawsuit with attorneys who represent Kansas foster children.

Foster parent Mitzi Monson feels lucky she can stay at home.

Yet since the coronavirus closed schools, Monson has had few breaks from the three children in her care. At least extra money from the state’s foster care agency, awarded since the start of the pandemic, helps pay for groceries.

HTTP://NC.CASAFORCHILDREN.ORG/ / KMUW/File photo

A program that helps abused and neglected children in state custody is putting out the call to recruit more volunteers.

Holes punched in walls. Car headlights smashed. Windows broken. Weapons, threats, sexual comments. Children who can’t live with other children. Children whom foster parents won’t take in. Children who aren’t able to get the mental health care they desperately need.

Kansas foster care contractors and parents say all of these situations have become more common — and more risky — since 2017, when the state made sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The changes, they say, removed options for dealing with foster children who have high needs and violent behaviors.

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

At first, they wanted to save her.

Then, after she fled the Kansas foster care system at age 16 and fell victim to the commercial sex trade, social workers told her she was going to prison forever.

"When I went into foster care and they wanted to take me away from my family, I ran," she said. "I ran away, and that's how I really started to get into all of this trouble. After I ran away, that's when they started treating me like, 'Oh, you're a suspect and you're not innocent.'

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor/File photo

Abused and neglected children are again sleeping overnight in the offices of Kansas foster care contractors because homes cannot be found for them quickly enough.

 

A new law standardizing Kansas’ response to child-on-child sexual assault could cost $126,000 and result in more than 3,200 treatment referrals a year.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed legislation Friday that directs the Department for Children and Families to immediately refer a minor to treatment if the agency receives a report that the child sexually abused another child.

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