KSN Investigates: Oversight and transparency at DCF

KSN Investigates

TOPEKA, Kansas — State lawmakers are speaking out after our KSN investigation revealed discrepancies in the Department for Children and Families, or DCF, following its own policies after the tragic death of Caleb Blansett.

Several lawmakers are calling for accountability at DCF, the department tasked with taking care of Kansas kids.

“DCF is entrusted with the care of the most vulnerable children,” said Representative Jim Ward, who represents district 86 in Topeka.

Rep. Ward, a Democrat, tells 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.”

KSN wants to know: What oversight is there at the Department for Children and Families? Who holds DCF accountable? 

Lawmakers tell KSN that Gov. Sam Brownback appoints secretaries to every executive state agency. For DCF, Phyllis Gilmore is that secretary.

Secretary Gilmore released a statement in the days following Caleb Blansett’s murder in December. In part, it read:

“As with any child death, we are deeply saddened by this news. We are carefully reviewing this incident and our history with this family…”

Despite multiple requests for an update on the Blansett case review, DCF has yet to release that information.

At the end of the day, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Topeka tell KSN, every state agency ultimately answers to the governor.

“Where’s the buck stop? It stops on the governor’s desk, because the governor appoints the secretary and he sets the tone of expectation for that administrative agency,” said Ward.

The second chain of responsibility? Our elected representatives.

“As legislators, we need to call for and we need to keep pressing for [transparency]. I don’t think this is unique to DCF. I’ve seen a lack of transparency in a number of agencies in this state,” said Rep. Ed Trimmer.

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