Lawmakers are throwing their support behind the acting Secretary of the Department for Children and Families by moving forward with her confirmation.
DCF has faced scrutiny over multiple issues including deaths of children who had been the focus of previous DCF investigation, and dozens of children missing from the system.
“I’m up for challenge. We’ve certainly been working very hard since I’ve been at the agency,” Gina Meier-Hummel told the Senate Public Heath and Welfare Committee during her confirmation hearing Friday.
Meier-Hummel has been acting secretary for four months and is expected to have no problem winning confirmation from the Senate.
“I know that there are stories out there that people want to say that we’re doing awful things and the reality is some bad things have happened there is no doubt about that, but we’re certainly moving forward,” she told reporters following the hearing.
Recently, Meier-Hummel admitted DCF mishandled the Evan Brewer case. The 3-year-old boy’s body was found encased in concrete this past September. While Meier-Hummel wasn’t in charge of DCF at the time, records showed DCF received at least eight reports the boy was being abused.
“We have to look at what has happened, figure out what we do differently, figure out how we grow, figure out how we make a difference and move forward,” she said.
Some senators said the agency has already improved under her leadership.
“She has a plate full of things to deal with, but I also think she has organized in her mind a plan to move forward,” said State Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka.
“The previous secretary was just incompetent and just incapable of doing an effective job. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and give her my vote for confirmation and then we’ll just see how she does,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said.
The Senate is expected to vote on the appointment next week.
If confirmed, Meier-Hummel would serve under Governor Colyer’s administration for the next nine months. If Colyer is not elected in November, the new governor could appoint a new secretary.