Quantcast

Kansas DCF Investigated by Task Force: New Director Seeks Fundin - KOAM TV 7

Kansas DCF Investigated by Task Force: New Director Seeks Funding

Updated:
Topeka, KS -

A legislative task force investigates the  Kansas Department of Children and Families.   The state has more children than ever in state custody.
 More than seven thousand Kansas kids are in foster care. Many people involved are afraid to talk about problems in the system which has operated in a veil of secrecy.    Caseworkers who have  quit the agency and  its subcontractor KVC have complained of  caseloads of up to seventy at a time, and  foster parents tell of being threatened or even losing their licenses after complaining about caseworkers.

 Nicole Lakey shared her concerns for her mom a former foster parent and involved in  kinship placement.  
Lakey said, "She's literally spent her whole life savings getting these kids back when they were taken away  for no reason. She's had attorney
s fees, time off from work."

Her mom is Roxy Watson. She was recently granted direct placement custody of her granddaughter from a son who is deceased twin boys, who she
s planning to adopt who are related to a different grandchild.
They were all removed from her foster home after the teens walked the three year old boys  home from a daycare across the street.  Caseworkers  alleged  a lack of supervision  and separately mental abuse in connection with a vacation that didn
t go as planned.

Roxy said  allegations followed her complaint about a worker entering her home while she wasn
t there.
Roxy lamented,  "It's been a  really  frustrating deal. I mean, I see why they don
t have no foster parents." 

In documents obtained by KOAM-TV of an appeal by Watson of the allegations, administrative law judge Bryan John Brown
 admonished DCF and its subcontractor, KVC, saying of  the caseworkers  presenting the less- than- clear case:
 "Neither were credible due to a basic unfamiliarity with the case."  And elsewhere in the order,  Brown wrote,  "Because the social worker who was responsible for this error ( and all of the errors documented herein) no longer works for the agency, this  presiding officer deemed this case a strategic teaching moment to be seized upon, in the hopes that future cases not suffer from the  same defects documented herein.

Brown found Watson had not inflicted harm on any of the children and ordered them directly placed back in her care.  He also found the caseworkers didnt follow DCFs own policies on filing a substantiated charge. Brown went on to write that DCF doesnt make it easy for caseworkers to understand or follow the agencys policies.


 

Unreliability in court is  one of many problems  resulting from  caseworker turnover that  Roxy, and   Nicole  have witnessed first hand. Roxy explained, With just these boys there was probably 6 six and seven  workers we had. I mean,   there was a lot. You never knew who your worker was."
Nicole added,  "If you go to court, six months later you're gonna have  a new caseworkers at the court date. They definitely  don
t know the story. They dont know the background of the kid. They dont know  the background of your family."

Roxy believes more regular visits would have prevented the charges in the first place. She explained,
Theres supposed to be a worker out here  every month. We asked, were there? Her answer, No!   

It
s  a concern Senator Laura Kelly  and other members of Child Welfare System  legislative task force are hearing as they investigate the  foster care crisis.
Kelly said, "Working conditions  have been horrendous for our DCF workers. They have had  too much to do and too few resources to work with."

Representative Linda Gallagher is also a task force member was concerned for caseworkers. She said,  "They  have  way  more children on their caseloads than they're supposed to, thirty  or forty or even more kids per case manager. That leads to high stress in those positions, frequent turnover, burn out."

Add to that relatively  low pay at thirty-five to forty thousand dollars a year.  Stefanie Senf,  a  DCF investigator said she didn
t take the job for the money but admits caseload impacts the job.
  Senf said, "I can do better work when I have a smaller caseload cause I can spend the time  that
s  needed,  rather than running from one appointment to the next, I feel like, and make better decisions for the family.'"

Senf said years ago,  when the agency was fully staffed, her job was easier.
People werent as stressed out going home at the end of the day  cause you weren't   leaving fifteen things on your desk undone knowing that yeah you'll  get to it tomorrow, but there'll be 15 more added to it," Senf said.

Stacy Manbeck, is the KVC director of  integrated services for Southeast Kansas counties and admits her agency is  not only short staffed,  but when caseworkers leave, so does their  experience.
 Manbeck said of longevity,  "One to three years is where  were at in tenure for caseworkers."

Third district Representative Monica Murnan is a member of the Children and Seniors committee and said it
s partly a funding issues. Murnan explained, I  believe we've also starved the contracts as a state and we  are asking those contractors to do more than we did  when they originally got the contract with less money  and that will never end well. She added, Kids get lost in the mix."  

There are at least seventy  kids currently that the agency can't  find. A  glaring issue for Sen. Kelly. She said, "We discovered during the course of this task force there were three kids  missing form a foster home. they'd been missing for forty-five days and nobody knew it
Even the secretary didnt know it. Thats a problem."

Watson's foster license was revoked  but she  was granted  direct placement of the children. No longer a foster care home she  gets no payments or medical coverage for the children  but
said  she didn
t do it for the money.
Roxy said through tears about the children,  "They're sweethearts. They love me. They love me a lot."

Roxy now has to come up with funds to pay for the  adoptions. 

Of the approximately seventy-two  hundred kids in foster care about twenty-four hundred have a case plan for adoption..
 

KVC and DCF are working to find solutions. DCF has a new director of and wants funding to address the foster care crisis.

 In the current system many caseworkers often work out of their cars. Pay is low, theyre on duty evenings, and  have heavy caseloads 
 
Stacy Manbeck with state subcontractor KVC explained current caseloads,  "The average is one  to twenty-eight right now.  We prefer one to fourteen point five."
Many have left the job to work  elsewhere including managed care and veterans services. Solving the caseload overload would take  more workers and KVC officials believe a change  in licensing would help.

Manbeck said,
In the state of Kansas we do have to have  license to practice social work. We believe that we would increase our works force seventy-five percent in ninety days if we would get approval to be able hire people with a related degree of social work like a psychology degree."

Non-licensed support workers  are assigned to help.  Some  of them even have four year  degrees.   They earn   only twelve to thirteen  dollars an hour but still  can't be caseworkers.
Manbeck said,   "They have experience and they do a really good job but based on the contract requirements of the state, we aren't able right now  to have them hold those positions."

 Higher pay is a solution.  But there are other incentives being considered. Task force member Gallagher said,  "I would love to see an incentive program to maybe tuition forgiveness for students who, uh,  major in social work and  go into child welfare work."

Vicki Schmidt, the  task force chairperson said,   "We are a training ground. They train with us then go into other positions. Uh,  we need to try to not only recruit social workers but  we need to retain the ones we have.  And I think it
s very disruptive  for the child and its very disruptive for the foster families to be constantly  through a churning process of social workers."


The last Secretary of DCF resigned amid criticism of  the agency's effectiveness.
New Secretary Gina Meier-Meier-Hummel   comes from the task force. She's hoping for a funding boost of sixteen and a half million dollars  over two years.

Meier-Meier-Hummel said, "I don
t know if it will solve the complete problem obviously. But, with that money we will get about twenty positions   to help do  our investigative piece and the upfront piece that we do."

A big chunk of the money, six and a half million dollars would go to family preservation services which the secretary said would make a big difference in the number of kids in foster care."

Meier-Hummel explained,  "IF we can do more to preserve families and strengthen  families and keep children safely with their families, it will reduce the  stress on the child welfare system as a whole. So  that
s  what we're aiming to do with that money  is really  help to  strengthen families, come along beside them, figure out what their needs are so court system doesn't feel they have to be removed."
Meier-Meier-Hummel plans a top to bottom review of DCF and its oversight of subcontractors like KVC.

Meier-Hummel added, "We have corrective actions in place. We have performance improvement plans in place. So, there are lot a of ways we're watching within  those foster care contracts to make sure the right things are  happening."

Even when caseworkers are doing their jobs ,  other factors are sending kids into foster care.. Up 39 percent, in the last six years from nearly fifty-two hundred  in 2012 to seventy-two hundred now.

That
s leading to  a system where numbers dont add up. Manbeck explained, The number of PTRF beds, psychiatric residential treatment facilities decreased from about  a little  over seven hundred  beds to two hundred seventy-two beds in 2011 about sixty-five percent.
 So we have twenty-seven hundred  foster homes  statewide and two hundred seventy-two prtf beds to serve  about seven thousand children or a little over that in care.
She added, Were always looking for foster  homes. I feel theres a shortage of two hundred fifty foster homes in our area.  We would like to move our children closer to home, closer to home communities, closer to schools  which has proven  to be beneficial reintegrating children and families when children are placed closer to their home.
 

She said juvenile justice reform had an impact on growing numbers of those in foster care.  
Manbeck said,
They  had reformed juvenile justice so there was  less children in detention centers and put  more in treatment centers to get treatment.   Unfortunately there isnt enough community (mental health) resources to provide treatment thats needed so a lot of those children are entering foster care that were in the juvenile  justice system.
So foster care is now seeing  more behaviors  issues and  mental health issues in foster care system than years before as well.


Repairing DCF comes down to dollars. Meier- Meier-Hummel believes lawmakers  see the need for funding  and is optimistic  it will make the budget. The task force presented it's first preliminary findings this January but a final recommendation that could include legislation  isnt due until January of  2019.

Missouri Reform 

Meier-Meier-Hummel will look at other systems nationally and across the state line to Missouri where some workers leave to go work from Kansas. Officials at the Missouri children's division say the state has varying classifications of workers. This came after major reforms a few decades ago to Missouri's welfare system as a whole. When we inquired about caseworker responsibilities and pay the following information about a relatively new career ladder was sent to KOAM-TV.

The job classifications for Children’s Division staff who manage foster care cases, or respond to allegations of child abuse or neglect, are Children’s Service Worker I, II, III, or IV.  Job descriptions and benefits for these positions can be accessed at the following links

Children’s Service Worker I https://oa.mo.gov/personnel/classification-specifications/5180  

Children’s Service Worker II https://oa.mo.gov/personnel/classification-specifications/5181

Children’s Service Worker III https://oa.mo.gov/personnel/classification-specifications/5182

Children’s Service Worker IV https://oa.mo.gov/personnel/classification-specifications/5183

These positions are paid a bi-monthly salary; they are not hourly positions. 

In 2015, the Children’s Division received funding to create a career ladder for frontline staff, which resulted in the creation of the Children’s Service Worker III and IV job classifications.  Turnover is an industry-wide concern and the Children’s Division has also made efforts to address staff turnover using the Staying Power curriculum in the hiring process.

In March 2015, the Council on Accreditation (COA) reaccredited the Children’s Division. Missouri is one of a few states in the nation to achieve this high standard in child welfare.  To be reaccredited, each county had to meet the high performance standards set by COA, and caseload was one of those standards.  The monthly caseload standard for each Children’s Service Worker set by Children’s Division is within COA guidelines.  The caseload for investigations is 12/month; family assessments is 15/month; Family Centered Services is 20; and alternative care is 15.Supervisors and managers provide support to Children’s Division staff who work directly with families beginning with structured on the job training.  Additionally, secondary trauma consultation services are available for staff involved in a traumatic event or series of events. A vendor trained in collection procedures provides drug and alcohol testing services for individuals involved with the Children’s Division.
 

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • KOAM MORNING NEWS TO KNOW 4-25

    KOAM MORNING NEWS TO KNOW 4-25

    Wednesday, April 25 2018 8:24 AM EDT2018-04-25 12:24:59 GMT
    OKLAHOMA BUDGET Oklahoma lawmakers put the finishing touches on the state budget.  State Senate and House committees met on Tuesday to discuss the proposed $7.5 Billion plan.  The budget proposal calls for increases for the department of corrections, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and education, which will see a 15% increase in funding.  SHOWER THE PEOPLE The Joplin Salvation Army Center of Hope opens a new program called "Shower the People&q...More >>
    OKLAHOMA BUDGET Oklahoma lawmakers put the finishing touches on the state budget.  State Senate and House committees met on Tuesday to discuss the proposed $7.5 Billion plan.  The budget proposal calls for increases for the department of corrections, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and education, which will see a 15% increase in funding.  SHOWER THE PEOPLE The Joplin Salvation Army Center of Hope opens a new program called "Shower the People&q...More >>
  • Dilapidated Building Vote in Pittsburg

    Dilapidated Building Vote in Pittsburg

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 10:52 PM EDT2018-04-25 02:52:24 GMT

    Many communities have issues with property that either needs to come down or be repaired. But when that property lies in the heart of the city, like Broadway Street, Pittburg officials took action.

    More >>

    Many communities have issues with property that either needs to come down or be repaired. But when that property lies in the heart of the city, like Broadway Street, Pittburg officials took action.

    More >>
  • WEB EXTRA: Carl Junction Brothers Serve as Honorary Members of PSU Baseball Team

    WEB EXTRA: Carl Junction Brothers Serve as Honorary Members of PSU Baseball Team

    Tuesday, April 24 2018 10:58 PM EDT2018-04-25 02:58:42 GMT

    Peyton and Bearett Vanderpool threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday's game. Peyton is battling a rare form of brain and spinal cord cancer, while Bearett was diagnosed with Spina Bifida. 

    More >>

    Peyton and Bearett Vanderpool threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday's game. Peyton is battling a rare form of brain and spinal cord cancer, while Bearett was diagnosed with Spina Bifida. 

    More >>
Powered by Frankly

KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas
Send tips, ideas and press releases to: tips@koamtv.com
Send newsroom questions or comments to: comments@koamtv.com
Phone: (417) 624-0233 or (620) 231-0400
Web comments or questions: webmaster@koamtv.com
Newsroom Fax: (417) 624-3158

Powered by WorldNow All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 KOAM. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.