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Douglas County: Below normal?
If you want to get into interesting conversations start comparing Lawrence and Douglas County to other places in Kansas or places with Big 12 universities or places in the US or : It goes on and on. I guess that most people want the place where they live to be the best. Although I know a lot of people who pine for some other real or imagined place. Recent data on children removed from their homes show that, on average, 2 children per 1,000 in Douglas County were placed into foster care. This is below the 5 per 1,000 that is the median for Kansas Counties. You may recall the recent flap in Wichita. There was an assertion that more children were removed from their homes in Sedgwick County than Los Angeles or New York. Well, in Kansas, Sedgwick is entirely normal removing 5 children per 1,000. These figures come from recent end of fiscal year data from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation (SRS). Since the number of children removed from their homes can vary quite a bit from year to year I used the average number of children removed from their homes over the last 3 years. In counties with small number of children the year to year variation can be very large. For example, Greeley and Wallace counties have the smallest number of children (less than 400). One family having problems requiring 3 children to be placed into foster care in one year would really change the placement rate. The 3 year average accommodates for this type of variation. At the low end, no children from Hodgeman and Stanton Counties were placed into foster care during the last 3 years. Hodgeman and Stanton each have less than 700 children. Scott County has about as many children as Norton and Rooks Counties but has fewer removed from their homes. Scott County averaged 0 children placed although they did have one child removed for the home two years ago. Norton is in the middle of Kansas counties with an average of 5 children per 1,000 removed. Rooks County is below that at 3 children per 1,000. I wonder what is different about Scott County. I also wonder what is different about Barton County. With an average of 14 children per 1,000 removed from their homes Barton has the highest placement rate of any county in Kansas. This is almost 3 times higher than the state median. Bourbon, Labette, Crawford and Allen are not far behind Barton in terms of the removal rate. What is a reasonable rate for removal of children from their homes? We don't know the rate at which children need to be removed from their homes. Traditionally foster care is used to provide a safe place for children who are suffering abuse or neglect. SRS reports that during the last fiscal year there were 53,888 reports concerning the welfare of children. A little over half of these were assigned for an investigation. Two-thirds of these were for reasons of abuse or neglect. However in Kansas a child can be identified as a Child in Need of Care (CINC) for a variety of reasons other than abuse or neglect. One-third of the reports investigated were for non abuse or neglect reasons. What to make of all this? Since there is no absolute standard against which we can judge these rates, it is worth looking at counties at the extremes (Scott and Barton) to see what we can learn from their experiences. And by the way, in Kansas, Sedgwick County has a normal foster care placement rate and Douglas is below normal.