TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Advocates for foster care reform in Kansas are pushing for a bill that would create more oversight of the system. For several years, the Kansas foster care system has made headlines for accusations of abuse, neglect and even death within the system.
The Department for Children and Families Secretary, Laura Howard, says positive steps are being made toward reform, but some say that is not enough.
A bill is being discussed that would create the office of the child advocate. The office would act as oversight for kids’ safety and well-being within the foster care system in Kansas.
“This is set up for the oversight committee to take a complaint, follow up with the complaint, check out all sides and aspects of the complaint and give recommendations,” explained Randy Puett, Founder of Kansas Kids Matter.
Puett has been at the forefront of fighting for foster care reform in Kansas after he says his daughter experienced abuse while in the system. He says he fully supports this bill.
“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Puett.
The Office of the Child Advocate would be appointed by the Governor and the Chief of the Supreme Court, with consent and advice from the Kansas Senate. 14 other states have a similar office in place, including Missouri. The child advocate from Missouri testified in support of the Kansas bill. She says since the office was created 18 years ago, the Missouri foster care system has seen major reform.
“This office is able to shine a light on the future that we need to go to fix the problem in our system,” said Joey Hentzler, Director of Advocacy with Kansas Appleseed. “That office was established after one incident of a child’s death and we have experienced multiple deaths in our system.”
We reached out to the Kansas Department for Children and Families for a comment regarding the bill, a spokesperson for DCF said they do not have enough information on the bill to give a comment at this time.
It is estimated that creating the Office of the Child Advocate would cost the state nearly $800,000 in fiscal year 2020.
The bill is currently still being discussed in committee, it may move on to the House floor for debate and a possible vote in the coming weeks.