Letter to the editor: Don’t blame DCF leader

To the editor:

State Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Republican from Louisburg, wants Gov. Laura Kelly to fire Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard. She thinks Howard should be held responsible for the recent death of a 13-year-old boy who walked away from a group home in Independence, stole a pickup and drove to Tulsa, where he crashed into a semi-truck.

The boy’s death marked the second time this year that a Kansas teen in foster care ended up dead after running away.

These deaths are tragic, certainly. But the notion that Howard is somehow responsible is laughable.

If anyone is to be held responsible, it would be the legislators who’ve consistently resisted shoring up a foster care system that’s been under-resourced for as long as anyone can remember.

Consider: There is nothing to stop lawmakers from building provisions into the state’s foster care contracts that would require providers to keep frontline workers’ caseloads below, say, 15 to 18 children, instead of the usual 30; to stop providers from “stacking” more kids in foster homes than the homes’ licenses allow; to cover foster parents’ actual costs; to make sure the state’s most vulnerable kids have ready access to meaningful mental health services.

As every legislator knows, this doesn’t happen because raising standards would increase costs. It’s easier and cheaper to press contractors for their lowest bids on perpetuating a system that, at best, is bare bones.

Firing Howard won’t change that.

Dave Ranney,

Lawrence

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