Archive for Monday, June 4, 2012

SRS concern

New language in contracts with agencies that provide key social services in Kansas needs to be cleared up.

June 4, 2012


Some new language in contracts between service providers and the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is raising questions that need to be addressed — sooner rather than later.

SRS officials say the new language is intended to tighten existing restrictions against contractors using state or federal funds in lobbying efforts. However, a number of agencies that contract with SRS to provide various services are so concerned about how the policy is stated that they say they will not sign the contracts until the matter is resolved.

In their minds, the contract goes far beyond the usual restrictions on lobbying. The language is so vague and inclusive, they say, that it raises many questions about activities in which agencies routinely engage. The new contracts state, “No funds allowed under this agreement may be expended by the recipient of the grant to pay directly or indirectly, any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a member or employee of a member of the United States Congress or the Kansas Legislature.”

Contractors already are barred from spending government dollars to lobby for or against a specific bill or policy, but the new language seems more far-reaching and has organizations asking questions. Does paying dues to an association that is active in the legislative process constitute “indirect” attempts to influence legislation? Are agency employees barred from legislative involvement if all or part of their salaries are paid with state money — even if their lobbying efforts are paid for with private dollars? According to some national nonprofit officials, the language is so vague and overly broad that it is unlikely to stand up in court because it infringes on providers’ constitutional rights.

The agencies that contract with SRS provide a host of important services to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Although SRS hasn’t had a good record recently of listening and responding to the concerns of agencies with which it works, state officials need to revisit this policy and make sure that any restrictions it places on lobbying and education efforts are both constitutional and not overly burdensome to the contractors on which the state depends.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

The point is to make sure that only billionaires like the Kochs have access to and influence over legislators and other government officials.

WilburM 5 years, 11 months ago

Very good to focus attention on this, so that some sensible policies can be worked out -- otherwise, you've got a huge constitutional issue, and the state is on the wrong side.

Alceste 5 years, 11 months ago

Bluntly, Alceste "trusts" nothing that comes out of Brownback's SRS. There's always a catch.

Irrespective, maybe such narrow language will force the likes of B. Wayne Sims and his Kaw Valley Center to perform instead of just rake in the dough. Kaw Valley Center ( ) has been perpetrating fraud on the people of Kansas since it began getting money from SRS to run the state's foster care program. This "privitization" of foster care service delivery sealed the fates of countless numbers of children and their families. It made the industry of foster care all the more industry like; all the while B. Wayne Sims counting his money on the way to the bank.

Foster care FAILS 80% of the time and perhaps even more with joints like Kaw Valley Center lobbying here and there to get even more money for the snake oil being sold by same.

Read the facts and weep. God Bless The Child That's Got His Own, eh?

The study used case records and interviews to assess the status of young adult “alumni” of foster care.

When compared to adults of the same age and ethnic background who did not endure foster care:

· Only 20 percent of the alumni could be said to be “doing well.” Thus, foster care failed for 80 percent.

· They have double the rate of mental illness.

· Their rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was double the rate for Iraq War veterans.

· The former foster children were three times more likely to be living in poverty – and fifteen times less likely to have finished college.

· And nearly one-third of the alumni reported that they had been abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home.

The authors went on to design a complex mathematical formula to attempt to figure out how much they could improve these outcomes if every single problem besetting the foster care system were magically fixed. Their answer: 22.2 percent.

Even if one argues that foster care didn’t cause all of these problems, clearly foster care didn’t cure them. Yet the authors of the study recommend only more of the same: Pour even more money into foster care to “fix” it to the point that maybe the rotten outcomes could be reduced by 22.2 percent.

At a two-and-a-half-hour briefing for advocates, there was barely a word about keeping children out of foster care in the first place.

Why, then, do we continue to pour billions of dollars into a system which fails 80 percent of the time and actually abuses at least one-third of those forced into it?

We do it because, over 150 years, we’ve built up a huge, powerful network of foster-care “providers” – “a foster care-industrial complex” with an enormous vested interest in perpetuating the status quo. They feed us horror stories about foster children whose birth parents really were brutally abusive or hopelessly addicted. But such cases represent a tiny fraction of the foster-care population. (cont.)

Alceste 5 years, 11 months ago

(cont. from above):

As is documented in NCCPR’s Issue Papers, far more common are cases in which a family’s poverty is confused with child “neglect.” Several studies have found, for example, that one-third of foster children could be back home right now if their parents simply had adequate housing. (See NCCPR Issue Paper 5).

Other cases fall on a broad continuum between the extremes, the parents neither all victim nor all villain. What these cases have in common is the fact that the children would be far better off if states and localities used safe, proven alternatives to foster care – alternatives that don’t come with an 80 percent failure rate, and a 33 percent risk of child abuse. (See Twelve Ways to do Child Welfare Right).

Nearly as disturbing as the study’s findings is how the study authors attempted to spin them.

The finding about the rate of abuse in foster care is not mentioned in the press release accompanying the study. It’s not in the Executive Summary. It’s not in any of the glossy material that accompanies the report. One must dig it out of the report itself, on page 30. (The full report is available here)

During the entire briefing for advocates, I waited in vain for the study authors to even mention the issue of abuse in foster care. When I finally asked about it, at the very end of the briefing, one of the researchers tried to blame birth parents, speculating, without a shred of evidence, that maybe the foster children had been abused during visits.

But that is contradicted by the study itself, which states:

“One third (32.8%) of the sample, however, reported some form of maltreatment by a foster parent or other adult in the foster home during their foster care experience, as recorded in their case files” [emphasis added].

If anything, this underestimates the true rate of abuse, since a major problem in foster care is foster children abusing each other (see NCCPR Issue Paper 1), and those cases apparently were not counted in the study.

Of course, some will rush to conclude that because family foster care has failed so badly, we should go back to orphanages. There’s just one problem with that. Over a century of research is nearly unanimous: The outcomes for children warehoused in orphanages are even worse. (See NCCPR Issue Paper 15).

Though the authors try desperately to ignore the obvious, their study is one more indication that the only way to fix foster care is to have less of it. Until we realize that, foster care systems will continue to churn out walking wounded – four times out of five times.

rbwaa 5 years, 11 months ago

If I remember correctly wasn't B. Wayne Sims a legislator when the whole foster care privatization scheme was invented? Makes this question a little ironic: "Are agency employees barred from legislative involvement if all or part of their salaries are paid with state money — even if their lobbying efforts are paid for with private dollars?"

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

So which is worse, an individual who steals a million dollars or a million people who each steal a dollar? Theoretically, the net effect is the same. The individual who steals a great sum violates our sense of right and wrong. He's greedy. He's evil. However, his behavior can be controlled. We can keep an eye on him. We know who he is, where he is and should his behavior become so egregious, we can put him in jail. (think Koch and all the other super rich) The million who steal a dollar each though don't violate our sense of values to the same extent. Sure, they steal, but it's value is so much less. Of course, there is no means of effective control. We can't keep an eye on them nor can we lock them up. The problem with this group is that they have complete immunity. And with that immunity comes the opportunity to steal another dollar and another. (think all those who exploit welfare as well as the poverty pimps) So which is worse? Is it really a zero sum game where one can be criticized and not the other? Cannot both be criticized?

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

It may depend on the motivation.

When wealthy people steal massive amounts of money just because they're greedy, that's different from a poor person stealing a small amount of money to survive, in my view.

Think "Les Miserables" - are you the policeman in that story?

I'm sorry to see you starting to use the rather distasteful rhetoric of the right.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

"distasteful rhetoric of the right" - Ah, I assume you mean my use of the words "poverty pimps". Remember, Jafs, I worked in that field. I saw, with my own two eyes. Not heard stories, not heard tales, not read in a book somewhere. I saw.

Let me give you an example, not of poverty pimps, but a life example, a lesson learned. I attended the Democratic Party caucus here in Douglas County in 1976. (in my youth, I was much more left leaning, far more prone to use the rhetoric of the left). Anyway, Jimmy Carter was the frontrunner, though several candidates with far more left leaning tendencies were still vying to become the one to challenge Carter. The refrain, as I recall, was ABC, Anybody But Carter. Anyway, as we broke into our groups, the Carter people here, Jerry Brown there, other groups around, it became apparent that Carter had the most supporters, though if played correctly, the other smaller groups combined could join forces and deny Carter his delegates. And that's just what happened. All these left leaning, do the right thing types of people, conspired to deny representation to the more moderate leaning Carter.
You see, Jafs, the rhetoric of the right is the same as the rhetoric of the left. Democrats are no better than Republicans, no worse. They're the same coin, one heads, one tails, neither worth any more than the other.

Les Miz, let me ask you this question, Jafs. Suppose the hungry man in that story stole not a loaf of bread, to feed his family, but rather stole a steak? Suppose he stole a steak so grand, that he could feed his family, sell some, and then live off the profits for some time, not needing to work? Sure, he was hungry in the beginning. Maybe hungry enough to justify stealing food to survive. But when does the stealing cease being a case of survival and become his vocation? Isn't that where we are with intergenerational dependence on social services?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"Isn't that where we are with intergenerational dependence on social services?"

There's a bit more of the distasteful rhetoric of the right-- demonizing the poor with sweeping generalizations.

Next you'll pull out the Cadillac-driving welfare queen.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Read my post, Bozo. I worked in the field. I saw.

I recall the rhetorical questions we asked; "who would choose a life of poverty"? "Who would choose a life of homelessness"? Who would choose a life of addiction"? But after a few years working in the field, seeing with my own eyes, I could tell you their names. I could point my finger and say "him, her". Suddenly the question was no longer rhetorical, they were real questions with real answers. They not be the answers you want to hear, given your preconceived notions. And quite frankly, they weren't the answers I wanted to hear, given my preconceived notions. But at some point, given a new set of facts, people need to change from those preconceived notions to reality.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

Politics is a nasty business, no doubt.

That doesn't make the rhetoric of each side equivalent, by any means.

No, because dependence on social services isn't stealing.

It's an unintended consequence of our social programs, and one I think should be examined. If it's at all possible, I'd like to see those programs structured so that they foster independence instead.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Let me give you another example, Jafs. Suppose a smoker tells you they are unable to quit smoking. They tell you they have tried, yet they are unable. Are you O.K. with that explanation? I'm not. Because my experience tells me different. I've known many, seen many who did quit.
Is there something different about this individual that suggests his statement is correct, that in spite of the ability of others to quit, he cannot? And if true, we're heading down a slippery slope where some are inferior than others. It's that slippery slope I don't want to go down. It's a slope I refuse to go down. that person can quit, I'm convinced. And if he chooses not to, that's his choice. The same is true with those who have overcome poverty to achieve great success. If one can do it, so can another. And then another. To suggest that they can't is to sell them short. It's to imply that they are inferior, something I reject.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

Interesting analogy.

It's extremely difficult to quit smoking - studies have shown nicotine to be more addictive than heroin.

Can people quit? Sure, but it's very hard, and most people won't succeed. And, they undoubtedly will need some help to do so.

The idea that everybody can overcome poverty and attain great success is lovely, but unrealistic.

I think we should be helping people to overcome poverty, of course, just as I like to help people quit smoking.

The reasons for poverty are much more complex than you seem to think, in my view. To really eliminate it, we need to make sure there are enough jobs for everybody that pay high enough wages to live on, for one thing.

As long as that's not the case, we won't eliminate poverty.

But, we could certainly structure our social programs so that they don't encourage and reward dependence, and I'm greatly in favor of that.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Interesting reply, because some of your assumptions, I'd have gone the other way. "They undoubtedly will need help (to quit smoking)". I'd have guessed the opposite. Maybe because I'm older and have seen many quit before things like the patch was invented. Maybe you're right, it's just my guess.

Let me ask this question, though. Suppose a certain percentage of people will pull themselves out of poverty with or without help. Another percentage can pull themselves out of poverty but only with help and another percentage will not pull themselves out of poverty no matter how much we help. Just for the sake of argument, let's assume it's 33% each. Now any money spent on the first and last groups is wasted, since they will or will not succeed regardless of the help given. Only that middle group will be helped. But if we can't identify each group, then we're wasting two out of every three dollars we spend.
Of course, if that middle group is 80% and the other two are 10% each, then we're "only" wasting 20%. But if the first and last groups are 40% each, then we're wasting 80%. Now no one can say for sure what the numbers are and no one can even say who belongs to which group. What I know is that we've been spending an awful lot of money over a period of decades and we've not come close to eliminating poverty. What's that joke: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

Well, there's also the humanity factor - even making it easier for people to quit smoking, or overcome poverty, is valuable to me - why make it harder for them by refusing to help?

And, as you say, we can't accurately identify the groups, or the numbers, so the whole exercise is sort of pointless.

Also, as I mentioned, eliminating poverty involves more than just spending money on social programs - if the jobs aren't there, it doesn't matter how much people want to work.

Finally, as I've mentioned numerous times, I'm in favor of improving our programs, so as to be more effective, not just continuing them.

The right wing solution, to simply stop helping people, doesn't appeal to me at all - what's yours?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Turn your third paragraph around. If the people don't want to work, it doesn't matter how many jobs are available. As I've mentioned, I'm older than you. I've lived through times when jobs were hard to come by. And I've lived in times when jobs were there for the asking. Simply put, there is a segment of our population that has no desire to work. We may disagree about what that number is, but it is true. Do you recall in the beginning of the Bush II administration, a bunch of oil execs got together with the vice president and set what our energy policies should be. Everyone howled about the conflict of interest. Rightly so. Back to my offensive word from earlier, poverty pimps. Let's just say that those in that industry, whether it's poverty, addiction, whatever, they have an inherent conflict of interest. As an example, look at our local shelter. They have an interest in define their residents in certain ways. They are local, meaning they are here. If it were discovered that a large number were from out of town, they might lose support, so they have an interest in defining them as local. They have an interest in defining them as looking for work. So if a resident wanders the street all day and returns saying they sought employment, they are listed as such. Even if a person did seek employment, were they properly attired? Did they reek of alcohol, cigarette smoke? Or did they just go into the first bar in town and ask to sweep the floors in exchange for a beer? The shelter has an interest in defining the search, they have a conflict of interest. The medical field has defined addiction as a disease so they can be reimbursed for services. It wasn't always like that. Maybe addiction is a disease, maybe not. But I'd rather hear it from someone who does not have a conflict of interest. You call for changing programs so they will be more effective. I can't argue with that, if I thought it would happen like that. But these programs have become so big, so set in their ways, that changing them is like asking a freight train to stop on a dime. Or turning around an aircraft carrier. That in itself is hard enough. And just like the wealthy have their very effective advocates, and unions advocate for their own, so too do the social programs. Their advocates will work very hard to save the jobs of those working in the industry. And they will disguise that with the rhetoric of providing a social safety net.
A senator once said of Vietnam, let's just declare victory and get the hell out of there. You, Jafs, want to admit failure in our war on drugs. Iraq was a failure and Afghanistan is headed for the same. With the war on poverty, maybe it's time to admit it's failed and try something else, something radically different.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

So, what's your suggestion?

Yes, there are some people who don't want to work.

And, certainly, when people make a living in social services, they have a vested interest in them - but that's true in a lot of places. One could argue that your doctor has a vested interest in your being sick, since that's when he makes money. Does that mean that you don't trust your doctor?

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

And, of course, we arrest and prosecute people for petty crimes all of the time.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

Each day I read about the previous legislative session I ask myself why I'm not packing my bags and moving the heck out of this looney bin.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

Is any other industry that receives payments from the state under the same restrictions? I mean, come on, do any of these people care about the Defense industry? Farmers? Oil and Gas? What about contractors that work on roads and highways?


JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

How about the Kochs? How much do they receive in payments from the government? Maybe they should be treated the same way.

jafs 5 years, 11 months ago

Good points by Jack - unless this is applied to all who receive government funding, it's clearly not correct.

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