TOPEKA (KSNT)— Kansas lawmakers have announced plans to hold an emergency meeting to discuss recent shortfalls in the state foster care system.
The controversy is surrounding one foster family’s ongoing battle with Cornerstones of Care, a non-profit organization in the Kansas City area. The DeHaven family from Gardner testified at a Child Welfare Committee meeting last month.
Nicole and John Dehaven, who are contracted as foster parents through Cornerstones of Care, recounted the roadblocks they’ve encountered in trying to adopt their three-year-old foster daughter, who has been with them since within days of her birth. Members of the Child Welfare Committee joined a press conference on Tuesday to discuss ‘inconsistencies’ in the foster care system.
“This is an intervention,” said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Republican from Overland Park.
“At most, she has spent 100 hours of her lifetime with her older siblings,” Baumgardner explained, while discussing the DeHaven case. “Is that a really close relationship? Are those four sibling that are demanding only adopt us in one home? No, it’s not, and yet, these are the lies perpetrated by all of those connected with DCF and our foster care system.”
Baumgardner said that she contacted the attorney for the Dehaven family who debunked claims made by the state’s Department of Children and Families and Cornerstones of Care.
According to Baumgardner, DCF and the organization said that “they weren’t familiar with the case” during last month’s meetings.
“What we now know from a confidential letter that we received from [DCF] Secretary Howard….that is a review of an update of her investigation in that particular situation…there was all kind of allegations,” Baumgardner said. “I contacted the DeHaven’s attorney, and I said, ‘Okay did this happen? Was there a bonding assessment for the child? What about the Guardian ad Litem? Did the Guardian ad Litem not attend the support meeting for the child?'”
“And what I have learned from the attorney, is that almost every one of the accusations we received from our Secretary of DCF is inaccurate,” Baumgardner continued. “To me, that makes it a lie.”
During testimony in September meetings, the DeHaven family indicated that some of the actions from Cornerstones of Care may have been “intentional,” after they voiced their concerns.
“We see that it is exemplifying a trend that we are seeing and hearing from… foster families who are either going through this or have gone through something very similar,” said Representative Susan Concannon, a Republican from Beloit, who chairs the Child Welfare committee.
Kansas Capitol Bureau reached out to Cornerstones of Care on Tuesday, but did not hear back.
Mike Deines, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Children and Families, sent the following statement on the issue.
“Since the judge has determined the next steps in this case, we are bound by law to work with our partners to ensure the case is managed as ordered.
Every day we strive to do the best for children in complex situations. We will continue supporting the children in our care, including by reviewing policies around how kinship – including sibling relationships – and attachment are considered in care decisions. We will also continue working with Cornerstones of Care to improve their communication with families.
DCF is bound by confidentiality statutes that prevent the agency from talking publicly in more detail about this case. At the request of the joint committee, DCF reviewed this case and provided a confidential response to their concerns. We stand ready to provide additional information to the committee in a closed session.“Mike Deines, Kansas DCF Spokesperson
Before lawmakers in the Child Welfare Committee can hold an emergency meeting, the Legislative Coordinating Council, a small group comprised of Republican and Democratic leaders, will have to give their stamp of approval.