Letter to the editor: Punitive culture

To the editor:

I recently participated in a public forum on how to salvage Kansas’ long-foundering foster care system. After some informative presentations, we were divided into small discussion groups.

One of the strategies we were asked to critique called for restoring the Brownback administration’s cuts in public assistance. It seems that a Kansas-specific study has shown a direct correlation between the increasing number of kids in foster care and low-income families losing access to public assistance. Made sense to me.

But during my group’s discussion, a Kansas Department for Children and Families worker (sorry, I didn’t catch her name) said restoring the cuts would do more harm than good because it would only perpetuate the culture of dependence. At some point, she said, destitute families are going to have to learn to stand on their own.

The fact that children account for almost half of those on food stamps and three-fourths of those receiving cash assistance didn’t seem to matter. If kids going hungry or becoming homeless is what it takes to get through to their deadbeat parents, so be it. Let them eat cake.

Since the forum, several legislators have complimented DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel for her efforts to reform the troubled agency. Indeed, Ms. Meier-Hummel is a good, kind, caring person, but, as yet, she hasn’t had much success in changing the department’s punitive culture.

Meanwhile, the latest available data show that on March 31 Kansas had 7,540 kids in foster care. That’s the most in state history.


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