38.5 F
Wichita
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Feds Say Filth, Hazards At Kansas Group Homes Put Foster Care Children At Risk

Inspectors snapped photos of boarded-up windows, beds without proper bedding and nails poking out of boards where children walk or play.

Sports Headlines

Kansas Falls in Overtime to No. 14 Texas, 75-72

Courtesy of Kansas Athletics AUSTIN, Texas – In a game that couldn’t be decided in regulation, the No. 17...

McGuirl Sparks Senior Night Win Over 7/8 Oklahoma

Courtesy of K-State Athletics MANHATTAN, Kan. – Mike McGuirl scored 19 points (16 in the second half) to...

Kansas Adds Jake Schoonover to Coaching Staff

Courtesy of Kansas Athletics LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas football coach Les Miles announced Monday that Jake Schoonover has...

1A KSHSAA Sub-State Basketball Assignments Announced

CLASS 1A - DIV. II ASSIGNMENTS SUB-STATES (February 25, 26, March 4-6) #1 Attica – Clay McDaniel, Manager – Argonia, Attica, Cunningham, Hutchinson-Central Christian, Kiowa-South...

Late Run Lifts K-State Over TCU, 62-54

Courtesy of K-State Athletics FORT WORTH, Texas – K-State placed three players in double figures and picked up...
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.

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen – Kansas News Service

Kansas let foster care children live in group homes with broken windows, mold, exposed electrical wiring, trashed porches and rodent droppings.

That’s according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. Federal inspectors dug into the state’s system of group homes in 2018 and 2019, but their final report only came out this week.

The auditors say Kansas wasn’t making homes meet health and safety requirements, even though state inspectors visited regularly.

“The homes were generally allowed to maintain operations without making needed repairs,” they wrote in their report.

Before the audit went public, the Kansas Department for Children and Families reviewed and responded to the findings. It disputes part of the report, saying auditors at times missed important information and documents.

U.S. Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General
A porch at a group home for foster children is blocked with broken furniture, paint cans and other trash. – U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General

The agency also says it has made changes to improve oversight of group homes, spokesman Mike Deines said in an email to the Kansas News Service.

In 2018 and 2019, inspectors came to Kansas and visited all 31 group homes licensed at the time to house between 5 and 24 kids. They said they were met with walls that had holes in them, missing windows, subpar fire extinguishers, rundown playgrounds littered with trash, beds without proper bedding, long nails sticking out of wooden stairs and other dangerous debris.

At one place that housed six boys, they found an unsafe gas heater connected to an exposed natural gas line running through a child’s room. Another boy’s bed had an electric space heater pushed up against it, and the outside decks were in disrepair.

“Porches were propped up in a makeshift fashion,” the auditors wrote. “Trash and debris were strewn around.”

Twenty-four of the 31 homes violated physical health and safety rules, and 29 broke background check or fingerprint requirements. One place housed teenage boys and girls, even though its license only allowed it to care for the latter.

State inspectors knew but didn’t close the home or make it undergo licensing to care for boys, the auditors say. That home has since been stripped of its license and closed.

Federal auditors said 40 employees at the group homes had out-of-date background paperwork on file. More than 120 people had been on the job for more than a week before their employers submitted requests for background checks to the state. Paperwork was missing or undated for a few dozen more workers.

The state agency that oversees foster care pushed back against the findings regarding violations of environmental rules and background checks. Kansas also said it had begun reviewing employee lists at the homes monthly, and had stopped letting them put people to work before background checks are complete.

In its email to the Kansas News Service, DCF explained some of the changes.

“While we do not agree with all the audit teams’ conclusions, we have taken several steps to correct deficiencies identified during the previous administration,” Deines said.

Nails poke out of wooden stairs at a group home for foster care children in Kansas. – Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General

Gov. Laura Kelly took over in January 2019, and pledged to fix the state’s ailing foster care system, which had already come under fire for the deaths of several children, as well as putting children in crowded spaces, moving them too often and not doing enough to find children that go missing.

Under Kelly’s watch, DCF has worked to rope in higher-level supervisors when facilities have unresolved violations, Deines said, as well as put licensing staff through fire hazard training and added a manager position focused on group home oversight and licensing.

DCF also sent staff to each of the 31 homes in the federal audit, he said, to make sure the problems identified there get fixed.

Earlier this month, DCF settled a class-action lawsuit that accused Kansas of failing to provide mental health care to children in foster care, and of putting kids in a different home each night, or even keeping them in offices or other spaces not meant for housing.

Under the settlement, Kansas must work over the next few years to fix those problems and others. It has to make sure foster care sites don’t go over capacity and track whether children end up in jail or the juvenile justice system.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Kansas Headlines

U.S. Sen. Moran On Mission To Make Certain Kansas Vets Get Shot At COVID-19 Vaccine

By Tim Carpenter - Kansas Reflector TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran met with military veterans Monday at Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center on a mission...

US Highway 36 Association Announces “Best Burgers” Contest Winners

The US Highway 36 Association is pleased to announce the winners of our “Best Burgers on 36” Contest. During the month of November voting...

Tractor Supply Company Announces Agreement to Acquire Orscheln Farm and Home

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, today announced that it has entered...

SPP Raises Energy Emergency To Level 2; Urges Continued Energy Conservation

At 6:20 p.m. Central time on Feb. 17, SPP declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 2. The alert will remain in...

Energy Emergency Alert Lowers To Level 1

Effective at 1:15 p.m. Central time, SPP has declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 1 for its entire 14-state balancing authority area. Generation is...

Kansas News Service

Kansas Foster Care Providers Say They’ve Gotten Better, But Critics Say They Need To Do Better

By Nomin Ujiyediin - Kansas News Service The long-troubled foster care system in Kansas got hit with yet another complication over the last year. Pandemic complications...

Ex-KU Med Center Official Pleads Guilty To Tax And Embezzlement Charges

By Dan Margolies - Kansas News Service A former administrator at the University of Kansas Medical Center pleaded guilty on Tuesday to bank fraud and...

How Elon Musk And A Mission To Mars Might Boost Internet Speeds In Rural Kansas

By David Condos - Kansas News Service GREAT BEND, Kansas — Joey Bahr walks out to the front of his yard along a blacktop county...

Kansas Hospitals Seek Help From Nearby States, But The Whole Midwest Faces A COVID Surge

By Celia Llopis-Jepsen - Kansas News Service Hospitals in Colorado and Nebraska are calling Kansas in desperate search of beds for coronavirus patients. But Kansas...

Kansas Republicans Keep Their 3 Congressional Seats; Davids Reelected In Kansas City Suburbs

By Stephan Bisaha Stephen Koranda, Nadya Faulx, Aviva Okeson-Haberman - Kansas News Service Democrats and Republicans in Kansas will keep their seats in the U.S....