Topeka — Lutheran Social Services has reached agreement to continue providing services for children in state custody awaiting adoption.
It won't require any of the youngsters to be relocated.
"Children and families, foster parents, social workers and other social service providers can be assured that the adoption network is stable and moving forward," Janet Schalansky, secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, said Friday.
In 1996, SRS turned over foster care and adoption services to private nonprofit groups. In July, legislators learned that Lutheran, which provides some adoption services, was in financial trouble.
The agency was the state's contractor for adoption services from 1996 until July 1, when Kansas Children's Service League took over those services for 1,490 children. The league then contracted with Lutheran to take care of 988 of those children but announced last month it was exercising a 90-day termination clause in its contract with LSS.
Under the new agreement, Lutheran will continue to provide special-needs adoptions for 200 children in Wichita and 140 children in Topeka.
KCSL and its subcontractors will provide complete adoption services for all other children covered by the state's adoption contract.
"The children will remain in the placements where they are now. Physically, the kids won't have to go anywhere," said Robert Hartman, KCSL president and chief executive officer.
Hartman called the new agreement "the best way to come up with a workable solution given the financial difficulties" of Lutheran.
"We have confidence in our ability to work together to fulfill the terms of the contract," Hartman said.
Hartman said the new agreement will run through June 30, 2001, as had the old contract. He also said the monthly rate the state pays for each child will remain $1,426 for children under KCSL care and about $1,100 for LSS children.
"Our concern was to stay focused on the safety and support of the children," Hartman said.
In related news, Lutheran made final payments to subcontractors for debt incurred prior to July 1. Checks were mailed Friday to cover 74 cents for every dollar owed by LSS.
"This successful completion of this workout plan ensures that LSS will continue its mission of providing social services to children, families and communities," said Bernice Karstensen, LSS chief executive officer.
A recent private audit showed LSS had about $9.2 million in debts but only $7.3 million in revenue to pay creditors.
On Monday, a legislative committee ordered an audit of the state's adoption and foster care system. The audit is to be completed by January, when the Republican-controlled Legislature convenes.
Earlier this month, Democrats proposed a plan that included the creation of an independent oversight committee.