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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

State Settles Federal Lawsuit; Agencies Eager to Continue Systemic Overhaul of Child Welfare System

DCF Secretary Laura Howard Addresses Settlement

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications.After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations.In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 94 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing. In 2018 he became the Studio Coordinator at the Cumulus Kansas City broadcast center for Kansas City Chiefs Football.

(Via Press Release) Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard today announced that defendants have agreed to a settlement agreement in the matter of M.B. and S.E., through their next friend KATHARYN MCINTYRE, et al., v. LAURA HOWARD, et al. The class action lawsuit was filed in 2018 by Kansas Appleseed, Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law on behalf of named plaintiffs 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 settlement agreement affirms our commitment to Kansas children by continuing efforts to build an effective child welfare system,” Howard said. “The work we agreed to complete to resolve this lawsuit began a year and half ago when I stepped into my role as Secretary and will continue to be our primary focus.”

The agreement sets forward three categories of requirements for DCF to address focused on placement stability and access to mental health services. Categories include accountability reporting and implementation, practice improvements and outcomes. Requirements in the agreement include:

Accountability reporting and implementation:

  • Amending foster care provider agreements to include practice improvements and outcomes within 30 days of the order.
  • Developing an independent advisory group to inform action planning and improvement within six months of the order
  • Reporting and validation of number and placement duration of youth placed in detention or juvenile justice placement and foster care caseloads
  • Validating performance data through a neutral entity
  • Establishing annual reporting periods during Jan. – Dec. 2021-23

Practice improvement:

  • Ending the use of offices for overnight stays
  • Ensuring crisis intervention service statewide
  • Ending night to night placements with exception to those deemed appropriate by CFSR placement stability standards by December 2021.
  • Ending short-term placements that are 14 days or shorter by Dec. 2023
  • Ending delays in authorizing mental health treatment
  • Ensuring no placement exceeds its licensed capacity without an approved policy exception

Outcomes:

  • Achieving placement stability for children entering care at a rate 4.44 moves or fewer per 1,000 days in care
  • Providing children an initial trauma and mental health screening within 30 days of entering care
  • Providing a stable placement as measured in federal case review for at least 90% of children in care
  • Ensuring 90% of children have their mental health needs addressed as measured in federal case review
  • Ensuring that in a 12-month reporting period children have one or fewer moves in the previous 12 months

“I’m comfortable entering into this agreement because I know the hard work this agency has already put into many of these requirements,” Howard said. “I believe all of these measures are achievable in the timelines set forward and also ensure Kansas isn’t caught up in long-term litigation.”

Current data from the agency shows:

  • In the second half of SFY20, the agency achieved a decrease in number of children who had no overnight placement and stayed in on office to an average of six per month. Down from 16 per month in the previous six months.
  • From July 2019 to Jan. 2020 only 10% of placements were for a duration of one calendar day.
  • Current placement stability for children entering foster care is currently at 6.3 per 1,000 days, down from 10.2 in July 2019 (Goal: 4.4)
  • Currently 95.9% of children are in a stable placement as measured in federal case review.

Through the Department of Administration, DCF has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Kansas Family Crisis Response and Support which will allow DCF to offer crisis intervention services across the state.

“Whether through an enhanced special response team locating youth on the run or building a new child protection framework through new practice models like Team Decision Making and Family Finding, we’ve made significant progress in slowing the number of foster youth who run away or do not have a placement and end up in offices,” Howard said. “At the same time, we are already seeing a modest reduction in the number of children who come into the system.”

The settlement will not be final until after notice is given to the class members and the court holds a final fairness hearing in approximately 90 days.

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