Kansas DCF requests millions to address current problems

Kansas DCF

"We feel good about the progress we've made, but obviously more efforts need to be continuing", says Gina Meier-Hummel.

The Department for Children and Families is requesting millions more from taxpayers to address problems within the department.

Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel outlined initiatives Monday that would cost $24 million over three years.

"It concerns me that they think we need to bring in less than qualified people to do the oversight".

It's child protection workers who investigate reports of possible child abuse or neglect and make recommendations about whether or not children should be removed from their homes.

Meier-Hummel said hiring college graduates for these child protection jobs, regardless of whether they have a license in social work, puts Kansas in line with many other states across the country who don't require licenses for all child protection roles.

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Meier-Hummel said about 30 percent of the child protection service positions at DCF are now vacant, including some that have been vacant for more than a year.

Meier-Hummel says those hired would have a four year degree in a field similar to social work and would go through the same training process as licensed social workers.

During the news conference, Meier-Hummel also provided updates on the number of foster children still missing as well as the number of foster children sleeping in state offices. "We were one of only a few states that required licensed social workers", explained Meier-Hummel.

"The new foster care contracts will be created to, among other things, streamline services, promote safety and permanency, increase accountability and prioritize keeping families safely together", said a DCF statement, made in advance of the agency's public announcement today. "The changes she is making combined with this additional investment to bolster our child welfare staff will go a long way to help DCF accomplish its mission".

"Lowering standards and requirements in investigations of neglect and abuse is risky and can mean the difference between life and death for children", Becky Fast, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said in an email statement. At the same time, however, lawmakers are under pressure from the Kansas Supreme Court to increase funding for K-12 public schools.

DCF is also planning pay raises.

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