Senator: Altered records at Kansas child welfare agency ‘horrific’ but unsurprising
A Kansas state senator said she was horrified but not surprised that someone in the state’s child welfare agency altered records in the case of a 3-year-old Wichita boy whose body was found encased in concrete.
Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel met with Evan Brewer’s family on Friday before releasing records, the Wichita Eagle reported. Family spokeswoman Shayla Johnston said Meier-Hummel told the family “there was dishonesty” in a form that was changed.
State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Republican from Mission Hills, said she had previously heard about a possible alteration but had no proof. She sits on the state’s Child Welfare Task Force.
“It’s horrific. But unfortunately, the administration we’ve had, it doesn’t surprise me,” Bollier said. “I think you dig anywhere, you’re going to find things. It will probably take years to unravel what’s been done.”
Records show the agency made a mistake in the lead-up to Brewer’s death. They show a report of detailed abuse allegations was not forwarded to a social worker investigating the case.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer pledged Monday to reform the department and vowed additional transparency.
“We’re all aware of a couple very specific cases that are emblematic of some of the problems,” Colyer said.
Another lawmaker who sits on the Child Welfare Task Force, Democrat Rep. Jarrod Ousley of Merriam, said the administration has done a lot of “verbal identification” of problems, but changes haven’t been implemented long enough to see if they’re working.
He said the last administration also said they were working on the problem for years.
Lawmakers created the task force last year to examine the state’s foster care system. Its monthly meetings have disclosed that foster children slept in offices while waiting for placement. It also noted as many as 70 children are missing from the foster system at any given time.
The child welfare department is expected to face additional scrutiny on Friday at Meier-Hummel’s Senate confirmation hearing. She now is serving in an acting capacity.
The agency is supporting legislation that would require, after the death of a child, that the secretary release the age and sex of the child, date of the fatality, a summary of previous reports to the agency and findings, as well as any department recommendations of services provided.
A hearing on the bill is set for Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee.
Responding to a question about the dismissal of Wichita DCF regional director Bill Gale last week, Colyer said the agency lost confidence in his leadership.
“This is something more than just a couple of cosmetic changes,” Colyer said. “In terms of personnel . we’re dealing with regional directors or if there are thing that clearly are egregious, I won’t tolerate it. Period.”