KANSAS CITY, KAN. News of the phase-out plan was greeted warmly by Douglas County District Court Judge Jean Shepherd, who believes foster children need to reside in homes or small group settings whenever possible.
A 100-bed residential foster care facility here that some critics have compared to an old-fashioned orphanage no longer will house children after Aug. 31, the top executive of Kaw Valley Center said Friday.
Kaw Valley Center since early 1997 has had a contract with the state to provide foster care services for children from Douglas and other eastern Kansas counties. CEO Wayne Sims said the Kaw Valley East facility, formerly St. Margaret's Catholic hospital and later a vacant nursing home, was reconditioned for foster children last summer in response to overcrowding at other KVC residential centers and always was meant to be temporary.
The agency's temporary state operating license for the facility expires Aug. 31.
"Early on we had more children and adolescents coming into the program than what we had anticipated" when foster care was transferred from the state to private contractors as part of a privatization initiative by Gov. Bill Graves, Sims said. "Gratefully, we found this facility. We never had this facility before the initiative and didn't want it. Unfortunately, due to numbers we had to do something on an interim basis."
News of the phase-out plan was greeted warmly by Douglas County District Court Judge Jean Shepherd, a juvenile court specialist among those who have said foster children need to reside in homes or small group settings whenever possible.
"That's wonderful news," she said. "I think, in fact, May 31 would be a better date. We have (Douglas County) children there."
Shepherd said she was uncertain how many Douglas County children currently are there because high turnover at the facility makes it difficult to keep track.
Sims said there are about 70 children residing at Kaw Valley East, about 30 percent of whom are from the same Kansas City ZIP code as KVC East. He said KVC will continue to use the building for administrative and case management purposes and will continue some of its non-foster-care related activities there.
When the facility first opened, rooms for the children were on the fourth and fifth floors. Not long after the facility opened, a teen-age girl was seriously injured after falling from an upper story window.
State health inspectors subsequently ordered KVC to move children's rooms to the lower floors.
"We had concerns about the location of sleeping rooms on floors that were too high," said Don Brown, spokesman for Kansas Department of Health and Environment. "They accommodated that by moving sleeping rooms down and administrative rooms up and got back in compliance without any trouble at all. They met all the requirements asked of them in the most recent inspection."
Sims said KVC will attempt to place as many children as possible with relatives; others will go to individual foster homes. Some with serious emotional or behavior problems will relocate to Kaw Valley's main campus, which also is in Kansas City but in a more rural setting west of downtown. KVC East is in the middle of downtown Kansas City.
-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.