WICHITA, Kansas — After KSN News launched an investigation into response time policies at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, or DCF, following the murder of Caleb Blansett, we now know when the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit Committee will hear lawmakers’ requests for an independent audit into the agency.
Representatives with the Legislative Division of Post Audit will hear the scope statement seeking an audit into DCF during the committee meeting scheduled on July 29.
Two state lawmakers prepared the statement after the results of our investigation were released in May.
“There’s a lack of transparency, and I think that’s become problematic,” Rep. Ed Trimmer told KSN on May 15. Trimmer is a Democrat who represents the 79th district, including some of the Winfield area.
“DCF is entrusted with the care of the most vulnerable children,” said Representative Jim Ward on May 15 in Topeka. Ward represents district 86, the Wichita area.
From that point, Rep. Ward, a Democrat, told KSN News that our story pointed out some “serious problems.”
“I need to talk to DCF. We need to bring them in office, [and] ask some questions, because your story was just one of many that have been coming out,” said Rep. Ward. “There’s been other cases where children have fallen through the cracks.”
Committee members, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, will debate and then vote on which issues to take up for an independent audit.
On Monday, KSN spoke with the Vice-Chair of the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit Committee, Republican Senator Michael O’Donnell. Sen. O’Donnell is a Republican representing Kansas’ 25th district, the Wichita area.
“I think the odds of proceeding with a new DCF post audit is probably pretty high, because right now, we don’t have any in the system,” said Sen. O’Donnell. “We need to make sure we’re doing as good of a job as possible, protecting the children in DCF, first and foremost.”
The independent nature of these audits are also important, Sen. O’Donnell said.
“Mistakes do happen in government, and the best thing we can do is make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes,” he said. “When it’s brought out in the post audit committee, independently, it makes it a lot harder to sweep it under the rug… That they’re able to go out, individually, and do their own research, so it’s not our team of legislators looking at things and being biased based upon the individuals involved.”
Sen. O’Donnell says these post audits are especially important in making certain state agencies are running efficiently, effectively, and according to appropriate standards.
“It’s more just to make sure these programs are running smoothly, because, as we know, there’s no infallible agency,” said Sen. O’Donnell.
If the committee selects DCF for the audit, as predicted, independent investigators will audit the state agency for anywhere from four to 12 weeks. After that, the investigators would present their findings to the legislative committee. Depending on what, if anything, is revealed in their investigation, committee members would then take that information back to the House and/or Senate for further action.
“The best thing we can do is have these independent agencies go in, do their own review, and then we’re able to make our judgment call from there on how to implement these changes,” continued O’Donnell. “Since they’re public, we can’t ignore calls from the media on [whether] it’s not speculation anymore, it’s actual fact.”
KSN’s Brittany Glas has been following this story for more than six months. She will be in Topeka to cover the July 29th committee meeting, and continue covering this story as the results of a possible investigation are released.
For more information on the committee, click here.