The Garden City Telegram recently posted an editorial (which also was published Thursday in The Ottawa Herald) filled with factual errors about the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). It’s important the public have faith in the agency responsible for protecting the state’s most vulnerable residents. And when newspapers spread misinformation, that trust is unnecessarily damaged. Until every child is free from abuse and neglect, we will always have more work to do.
The editorial first concludes that a recent audit found children sleeping in foster care contractor facilities. This was not an audit finding. DCF shared with another media outlet that depending on the hour a child comes into care and the child’s history of behavioral issues, he/she may spend more time than we would like in an office while a placement is identified. Foster parents may not always be ready at 3 a.m. to accept a new child into their home.
The editorial also inaccurately attempts to tie the number of children in foster care to the governor’s administration. Sadly, nationwide trends show a gradual increase in the number of kids in care — Kansas is no exception. This could be for a variety of reasons, including the child welfare system offering parents more opportunities than in the past to produce a safe environment in their homes, so reunification is possible. This means children are in foster care longer — not exiting the system at the same rate they are coming in. The number of children coming into care has remained fairly steady since well before this Administration.
The editorial also claims the system is underfunded. Although additional funds are always helpful, the state continually pours additional funds into child welfare system. Just recently, pay raises for social workers became a reality, along with other efforts to improve recruitment and retention of these vital staff members, whom the Garden City Telegram inaccurately stated are leaving DCF for contractors. It’s important to note, according to the federal Child and Family Services Review, Kansas has one of the safest child welfare systems in the country.
The editorial claims that mental health funding has been reduced. It has not, and funding for programs to address drug addiction have been increased.
Finally, the editorial inaccurately reports that I stated the agency was “sufficiently supervised.” This statement was never made. DCF undergoes many reviews at the federal and state levels. Although these reviews take away from staff time, they are often helpful, and we welcome any and all ideas to improve the child welfare system. When collaboration is done in a productive and efficient manner, not only does the agency benefit, but those we assist are better served.
When media outlets and the general public criticize this agency, they are also criticizing the thousands of hard-working Kansans who have dedicated their lives to protecting those who can’t protect themselves. Their work is often thankless and met with insult and risk to their safety. But they continue to come to work every day, ready to protect children and offer hope to families in need.
— Phyllis Gilmore, secretary, Kansas Department for Children and Families, Olathe