Kansas foster care advocates settle lawsuit against the state

The settlement ends a court fight that began in late 2018, and will require the state to better track foster children in its care.

by Nomin Ujiyediin, Kansas News Service

Lawrence, Kansas — The state of Kansas has settled a class-action lawsuit with attorneys who represent Kansas foster children.

Advocates sued the state in November 2018, arguing Kansas was not providing enough mental health care and shuffled children between homes too frequently. The long-troubled system has been criticized for, among other things, having children sleep in offices due to a lack of available homes.

The settlement, which was filed Wednesday but won’t take effect until a judge approves the terms and all foster children are notified, requires the state to stop making frequent moves and to track the children more carefully. Earlier this week, Gov. Laura Kelly announced the creation of a foster care report card, which will also track outcomes.

“It’s just a really good improvement for kids,” said Teresa Woody, an attorney for the nonprofit Kansas Appleseed, who was part of the group representing Kansas foster children.

Over a four-year period, the settlement requires the state to:

• Stop housing foster children in hotels, motels, cars, stores, offices, unlicensed homes or any other non-child-welfare housing.
• Authorize and provide mental health treatment in a timely manner.
• Make sure no foster care placements go over capacity.
• Make crisis intervention services available to foster children statewide.
• Stop putting children in a different home every night by the end of 2021.
• Stop putting children in short-term placements by the end of 2023.
• Comply with each required improvement for at least 12 months straight.
• Carefully track all movements of foster children, including the number of children who end up in jail, prison or another juvenile justice placement.
• Include the changes in grants within 30 days of the settlement.
• Create an advisory group consisting mostly of people knowledgeable about or involved in foster care to oversee the process and make suggestions.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy, an advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C., New York and California, will oversee the changes and make sure the state reaches the following benchmarks within three or four years:

• No children being moved more than four times per 1,000 days in foster care.
• 90 percent of a random sample of foster children being in a stable placement.
• 90 percent of a random sample of children having one move or less in the past year.
• 90 percent of a random sample of children receiving timely mental health screening.

The settlement also requires Kansas to make the changes regardless of available funding.

Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard said in a statement that the agreement “affirms our commitment to Kansas children.”

Howard told the State Finance Council earlier in the day that “the terms could be achieved within the current caseload budget,” according to an email from DCF spokesman Mike Deines.

Advocates initially sued the DCF, the Kansas Department for Health and Environment, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and former Gov. Jeff Colyer in 2018. Gov. Laura Kelly was added to the lawsuit when she took office, but was later removed when a judge agreed with Kelly’s argument that she didn’t oversee the system.

Nomin Ujiyediin reports on criminal justice and social welfare for the Kansas News Service. You can email her at nomin (at) kcur (dot) org and follow her on Twitter @NominUJ.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
See more at https://www.kcur.org/news/2020-07-08/kansas-foster-care-advocates-settle-lawsuit-against-the-state.

Police notes

Police respond to kidnapping report near 31st and Orville

Officers responded to a kidnapping report on July 8 near 31st and Orville in Kansas City, Kansas, according to a social media post by the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department.

Riverside police told Kansas City, Kansas, officers that a suspect pointed a gun at a victim and threatened to kill her if she didn’t get into a vehicle.

After officers located the vehicle, and after a short barricade, the suspect and the victim exited the vehicle without incident, according to the report. The suspect was arrested.

Shooting reported near 7th and Lafayette

A shooting into an occupied residene was reported on July 8 near 7th and Lafayette Avenue, according to a social media post by the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department.

The victim reported he heard gunshots, then found his residence had been struck by gunfire. There were not injuries, according to the report.

Budget workshop, BPU bonds, development projects on Thursday evening’s UG Commission agenda

A budget workshop is planned at the 4 p.m. Unified Government Commission meeting on Thursday, July 9.

Following will be a 7 p.m. July 9 meeting with several items on the agenda.

On the 7 p.m. agenda are Board of Public Utilities utility revenue bonds and refunding utility revenue bonds; and resolutions advancing the Yards apartments and riverfront development.

Other items include:

• Extending the local health emergency through Sept. 15, along with a Health Department report on COVID-19.

• A resolution stating the UG will comply with guidelines for accepting federal funding from the CARES Act.

• A resolution naming a tributary after Chief Ne con He con.

• Approval for a federal grant for up to $1 million for the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department.

• Approval for the UG Health Department to accept a $750,000 COVID-19 Metro Rapid Response Fund grant.

• Changing the name of the UG Urban Planning and Land Use Department to the Planning and Urban Design Department.

• Plat of the American Royal development at 118th and State.

• Plat of the Jones Addition, 66th Terrace and Wood Avenue.

• Plat of the West Ridge Estates, Second Plat, Hollingsworth Road east of 115th.

• The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report also will be presented.

• Nominations to boards and commissions include:

• Roderick Bettis to the Self-Supported Municipal Improvement Disrict Advisory Borad, nominated by Commissioner Melissa Bynum;
• Billy Brame to the UG Board of Park Commissioners, nominated by Commissioner Bynum;
• Susan White to the Wyandotte-Leavenworth Advisory Council on Aging, nominated by Commissioner Bynum
• Jimmie Banks to the Housing Authority, nominated by Commissioner Harold Johnson;
• James Connelly to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Kansas City, Kansas, City Planning Commission, nominated by Commissioner Johnson;
• James Echols to the Advisory Committee on Human Relations, nominated by Commissioner Johnson;
• George Gates to the Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District Advisory Board, nominated by Commissioner Johnson;
• Beatrice Lee to the UG Board of Park Commissioners, nominated by Commissioner Johnson;
• Dennis McWilliams to the Golf Advisory Board, nominated by Commissioner Johnson;
• Paul Soptick to the Law Enforcement Advisory Board, nominated by Commissioner Johnson;
• Ty Collins to the UG Board of Park Commissioners, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• Stephen Craddock to the Landmarks Commission, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• Jim Ernst to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Kansas City, Kansas, Planning Commission, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• Karen Greenwood to the Advisory Committee on Human Relations and Disability Issues, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• George Hurtado to the Golf Advisory Board, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• Jim Jarsulic to the Wyandotte County Library Board, nominated by Commissioner Markley’
• Don Jolley to the Law Enforcement Advisory Board, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• Tim Rhodes to the Housing Authority, nominated by Commissioner Markley;
• Joan Spero to the Wyandotte-Leavenworth Advisory Council on Aging, nominated by Commissioner Markley.

The meetings will be remote, using Zoom, internet and telephone. They are expected to be shown on UGTV, cable channel 2 on Spectrum and channel 141 on Google TV, as well as on YouTube. For more information, visit https://www.wycokck.org/Clerk/Agendas.aspx.

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