Archive for Wednesday, October 11, 2017

70-plus children missing from Kansas’ foster care system

October 11, 2017, 10:22 a.m. Updated October 11, 2017, 4:51 p.m.

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— Lawmakers are expressing outrage after learning more than 70 foster children are missing in Kansas, a number that officials say is in line with the national average.

Foster care contractors provided the information during a meeting of an oversight panel Tuesday at the Statehouse in response to questions about the disappearance of three sisters from a northeast Kansas foster home, The Kansas City Star reports. Police believe the missing girls — ages 15, 14 and 12 — ran away in August.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, told a child welfare task force meeting that when she asked the Kansas Department for Children and Families about the missing children on Tuesday, the agency knew nothing. She said after the meeting that she was "flabbergasted."

The agency's chief, Phyllis Gilmore, said after the meeting that she can't discuss the missing sisters. She said in a statement Wednesday that the department has long had policies in place to attempt to find missing foster children quickly and that many are returned to their foster homes swiftly.

"These children who run away are not under lock and key; they are generally in family foster homes, older youth, who attend school and activities, and they often miss their biological families," she said.

She also said that some of the missing children who are considered to be on the run are with a parent attempting to keep them out of foster care.

KVC Kansas, one of the foster care contractors, said it has roughly 38 missing children. The other company, Saint Francis Community Services, said 36 in its system are missing.

Chad Anderson, chief clinical officer at KVC Kansas, told the child welfare task force that the number of missing represented about 1 percent of the foster care population and is in line with the national average.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that during the federal government's 2015 fiscal year, about 4,600 children in foster care were listed as runaways, or 1.1 percent of the nearly 428,000 total. Kansas had almost 7,100 children in foster care in August, so the number of those missing is about 1 percent.

Still, Anderson acknowledged the contractors could do a better job.

"I don't know that we as contractors have shared as much in terms of missing youth and the day to day as we probably should," Anderson said, adding that contractors update DCF every 30 days on the missing children.

Rep. Linda Gallagher, a Lenexa Republican, said she was shocked at the number of missing children. Even if the number missing is in line with the national average, she said, it is still too many.

Rep. Steve Alford, a Ulysses Republican who chairs the task force, said after the meeting he wasn't really surprised.

"There's a break between DCF and the contracting," he said. "Once the children ... (go from the court) into the possession of the secretary, she hands them off to the contractors and it's their responsibility, you know, it's kind of like out of sight, out of mind in a lot of aspects."

Comments

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 week, 4 days ago

How's that "efficient" privatization going for you? They need to send in auditors and real social workers right away and figure out what is going on. And Gilmore should at the least be fired, at the most arrested.

Justine Burton 1 week, 4 days ago

Chad Anderson, chief clinical officer at KVC Kansas, told the child welfare task force that the number of missing represented about 1 percent of the foster care population and is in line with the national average.

So, is this comment suppose to make people feel better or does it help ease your morals? These kids are treated like crap, that is why they have gone missing and trying to put this in perspective by throwing out percentages show how far removed the government is when talking about the lives of these children. This is totaling disgusting and each and every one of you should be ashamed. Where is the money going, because obviously, it not going to help the kids.

Larry Sturm 1 week, 4 days ago

Children that go missing should be reported in 3 days not 30 days.

Elizabeth Day 1 week, 4 days ago

Full disclosure, here....I am a current foster parent in Douglas County and sure have my share of serious frustrations with the current foster care contractor in this part of the state. But, just some observations here, based on my own experience. For the most part, the social workers who work in our current privatized system ARE very hard-working, dedicated and conscientious and are very much REAL social workers. They struggle in a system that overloads them and asks entirely too much of them and then blames them, when things go wrong. And kids in foster care run from placements for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because they are treated like crap. Kids in care have been abused, neglected, traumatized and then are expected to adapt to strange families, with new and different expectations. They bring with them to placements profoundly maladaptive behaviors and often struggle mightily with attachment and lack coping skills. All of this is totally understandable. But, asserting that kids run because adults treat them like crap is an incomplete picture.

I would STONGLY encourage anyone who read this article, and the recent article about kids in care NOT having placements and so being forced to "live" in the contractor's office, to consider becoming a foster parent. This is a community problem. These children belong to all of us. As Kansans, we have accepted this privatized system, by default. Neither Phyllis Gilmore nor Chad Anderson "invented" privatized care. (And, like the rest of us, neither Phyllis Gimore nor Chad Anderson have paid appreciable income tax in this state for the past several years.)

Become a foster parent. Please. Elizabeth Day

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 week, 4 days ago

Thank you for being a foster parent. It is a tough job. And I realize the problems in raising kids who have been abused. We adopted our youngest, who had been abused even in the womb, because his birth mom was an alcoholic. He was challenging, but thanks to the Washington state hard to place adoption assistance, including a Medicaid card, we were able to get him all the help he needed, and he's turned into a fine young man. I can be tough, but it's rewarding.

That being said, these children are wards of the state. We are responsible for them. If you are a parent, which essentially what the state becomes, you are responsible for knowing where your children are. If my daughter or son had run away from home, I would be doing everything I my power to find. them. I expect no less from the state and the private company who are suppose to be taking care of them. Were there Amber Alerts put out for any of these kids? Are they sure they ran away? What if one is kidnapped. Do you just wait until they don't call to say they are safe, before you send out an Amber Alert?

Bob Forer 1 week, 1 day ago

Thanks for your comment. I am not in touch with the system any longer. But you sound like you have a good understanding of the issues.

Amy Rueschhoff Ballinger 1 week, 3 days ago

Elizabeth Day, you are absolutely right, thank you for your informed comment. We too were foster parents for years, both before and after privatization. Well said and appreciated perspective.

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