Task force pushes for Child Welfare System changes

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s spring break for Kansas lawmakers. Representative Jarrod Ousley, D-Merriam, is heading back to Topeka anyway.

A year and a half ago, Ousley and others were put on a Child Welfare System Task Force.

That task force makes recommendations that includes things like more social workers at the Department for Children and Families and more computer tech to clear case work.

“Yes, there is a real sense of frustration over this,” said Ousley. “We have offered several recommendations.”

Ousley says lawmakers have done little to nothing to act on the recommendations.

“We have definitely failed as a state. We are the ultimate blame. It ends up under accountability,” said Ousley. “I’m not sure, but I do know DCF has been underfunded for years and their staff has often been undertrained. Some of their staff has been put to the investigative front lines without even completing their employee training.”

Carol Brewer is the aunt of Evan Brewer. Brewer has long maintained DCF and police could have or should have done a better job of communication with each other on the Evan Brewer case before Evan was murdered.

Carol Brewer says she knows lawmakers have a tough road ahead to improve the system, but she is ready to run for office herself.

“I think social workers and police need to have the same accountability,” said Brewer. “I’m going to have to run for state Representative to actually give this extra push to be another voice in a higher place so that maybe something more gets done. Because it’s not being done fast enough here.”

Senator Barbara Bollier, D-Mission Hills, says she is also disappointed that more has not been done to help reform the system this year. Bollier points to a letter sent to all lawmakers this month that says there has been only minimal progress on the task force’s recommendations.

“A huge number of children are in foster care because of substance use by the parents,” said Bollier. “And if we can start addressing those issues we will have fewer children in the system and we will have the ability to put money other places instead of in foster care.”

Bollier says it will be a tough sell to lawmakers to get action this year, but many believe it’s worth the effort.

“It’s not just to save lives but to save families. To help save communities,” said Brewer. “Because right now we’re failing.”

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