Special to the Union

TOPEKA – Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard applauded the approval of the settlement agreement in the matter of M.B. and S.E., through their next friend KATHARYN MCINTYRE, et al., v. LAURA HOWARD, et al.

“I want to thank Judge Crabtree and the plaintiffs for making this a collaborative process,” Howard said. “We’ve already begun the heavy lifting required of us to address the provisions laid out in the agreement, we know we have much work ahead of us to reinforce our commitment to Kansas children by building an effective child welfare system.”

The class action lawsuit was filed in 2018 by Kansas Appleseed, Lori Burns-Bucklew, Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law against the Governor, DCF, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The Governor was later dismissed from the case.

The agreement outlines three categories of requirements for DCF focused on placement stability and access to mental health services. Categories include accountability reporting and implementation, practice improvements and outcomes. See the full list of requirements.

“We know these outcomes are achievable because we’ve already seen the positive results of the hard work DCF employees have put into these requirements,” Howard said. “I believe we can meet the timelines set forward in the agreement and ensure that Kansas isn’t caught up in never ending litigation.”

As part of the settlement work, DCF has already organized a statewide placement stability workgroup of partners and providers to identify and implement improvements. In addition, the agency will soon award a contract for Kansas Family Crisis Response and Support will allow DCF to offer crisis intervention services across the state.

The agency also has increased supports to relative and foster caregivers and will soon issue an RFP for innovations to support placement stability practice improvements included in the settlement agreement.

With these efforts, the rate of moves for children in care has reduced over the past 12 months.

Howard isn’t satisfied.

“We’ve made significant progress in slowing the number of foster youth who run away or don’t have a placement and end up in offices thanks to our enhanced special response team and by building a new child protection framework through new practice models like Team Decision Making and Family Finding. I am committed to seeing this work through until the requirements are completed and being transparent about our progress along the way.”

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