Archive for Saturday, January 11, 2003

Funding pulled from foster care organization

SRS audit showed $46,000 missing or misspent at nonprofit agency

January 11, 2003


Welfare officials have pulled the plug on Kansas Foster and Adoptive Families, a Topeka-based organization that represents the state's foster and adoptive parents.

"We've been cut off," said Sandi Clear, the group's executive director. "We haven't been paid since October."

The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services rescinded the second-quarter payment in the association's $107,000 grant after auditors found more than $46,000 was missing or had been misspent.

SRS audited Kansas Foster and Adoptive Families' books in October 2002 when the group's board of directors reported finding bookkeeping irregularities after then-executive director Jene Hilyer resigned.

Hilyer said this week she was unaware of the problems.

"I've not heard a thing," she said. "Nobody's called me about this. I don't have a letter -- nothing. This is the first I've heard of this."

Hilyer denied any wrongdoing. She resigned, she said, for personal reasons.

But in the audit, SRS workers note that on Oct. 24, Hilyer resigned "at the request of the board of directors following the discovery of financial irregularities. The irregularities included questionable payments made for medical expenses and financial irregularities."

Auditors cited KFAF for:

  • "Lack of documentation to support financial transactions."

  • "(I)nstances where the same person prepared the voucher, approved the voucher, wrote the check and signed the check."
  • "(N)o policies regarding use of the agency credit card."
  • Polices that allowed "a board member (to) request payment, approve payment, write and sign checks without input or oversight by another board member."

KFAF appealed some of the audit's findings last month, noting that more than half the questioned expenditures could be explained.

SRS chief legal counsel John Badger on Friday confirmed that the agency had withheld KFAF's payment.

In the past year, KFAF has put on workshops for foster and adoptive parents throughout the state, and mediated disputes between parents and SRS.

"Foster and adoptive parents really need someone they can go to because the way the system is set up now, they can't go to SRS and they can't go to the contractor because they're the ones who are doing whatever it is they're complaining about," Clear said.

Often, she said, foster and adoptive parents feel taken for granted and excluded from the decision-making processes.

"I hope we can keep this going," Clear said. "The people in here now didn't do anything wrong -- they're making it better, and they're the ones who called SRS.

"It doesn't seem right then when you tell SRS there's a problem, they cut off your funding."

Incorporated in 1998, KFAF is a nonprofit organization. Its membership includes 300 to 400 foster and adoptive parents.

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