Kansas House Democratic Leader Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., today called for a full-scale investigation into the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
During a public meeting on foster care today, several community residents told heart-wrenching stories of losing their children. The meeting was at a Community Reuniting Families panel discussion today at the Greater Pentecostal Temple, 864 Splitlog Ave., Kansas City, Kan.
Several community residents spoke at the meeting, and told personal stories of how their children or grandchildren had been taken from their homes. Some of the residents said the children were placed in foster care homes that were worse than where they were before. There also were objections from the residents that the grandparents often were not being allowed to step up and take care of their grandchildren.
As one speaker told about his grandson being taken away, a member of the audience toward the back dabbed at tears in her eyes.
The residents used such words as “kidnapping” and “modern-day slavery” to describe children who were taken out of the homes.
Burroughs told the audience of about 50 persons that he had asked for a full audit of DCF, and he wanted to know why the regulations were implemented in a manner so ludicrous.
He said he was encouraged by the strong outcry about damage being done to families. He said the group must tell the message throughout the state and nation that, “Our children’s lives do matter.”
Panelists alleged that sometimes children were removed from homes without actual evidence, without due process, and sometimes only on suspicion. Also, they said there was a profit motive behind the more than 6,000 children removed from Kansas homes, in that agencies received more funding for taking children out of homes than leaving them there and working with the families, and that foster parents received payments for accepting the children.
More than one resident said they had been told that if they didn’t sign an agreement on one child, there would be retaliation against other children in their family. Some also reported that they had been told there would be retaliation if they tried to contact their legislators to complain.
Spanking was a topic that came up a couple of times, with some residents saying that they believed discipline was important. They all would have been removed from their homes as children if the same rules had been in place back then, a couple of residents said. Some residents attributed increased crime and violence to a lack of people disciplining their children.
One resident was dismayed at the idea that his mother, who had raised many children, would not be considered fit by the state to take care of a grandchild. He said she is a God-fearing, good person who attends church.
Panelists said residents may go to Topeka to protest on the steps of the Capitol, asking for better laws that allow children to remain with their families.
Patricia Madison, the panel coordinator, who is a grandmother who was trying to get custody of a grandchild, said that she had gathered about 1,000 signatures on a petition on the issue. She has worked with foster care agencies in the past.
She said her grandson was sent to foster care in 2012, and she told the subcontracting agency that she wanted the child placed in her care, and she was told they would not do it.
“I’m good enough to keep your foster kids, but I’m not good enough to keep my own grandson?” Madison asked. “That makes no sense to me.”
Madison also said she was told that if she went to the state legislators, they would adopt her grandson out.
Kathy Winters, with the Kansas Family Rights Coalition, said a law allowing grandparents to have custody needs to be rewritten to make grandparents’ rights stronger.
Jennifer Wynn of Wichita, a former independent candidate for governor, spoke at the meeting and said, “If you think it’s not about money, you’re mistaken.” The children have been targeted because they make money for people, she said.
Besides Burroughs, Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist., also attended the meeting. A U.S. Department of Justice mediator, whose job was not to investigate but to try to bring about better relationships in the community, was also in attendance.
Sen. Pettey said changes can’t be made overnight. It is important to have more information, she said. “If you want to be effective, you need to be involved, be voting and be concerned,” Sen. Pettey said. “Education is the key.”
Mary Martin, a Wyandotte County resident, was involved in helping to present the program, and Tarence Maddox, a former Unified Government commissioner, was the moderator for the panel discussion.
This issue has been brought before a legislative committee previously, and community meetings also have been held in the Wichita area. The issue also came up at the Wyandotte County legislative delegation meeting Jan. 5 at the West Wyandotte Library.
No one from DCF or subcontracting agencies spoke at the meeting on Feb. 29. The meeting had been publicized in advance as open to the public. In an earlier story by the Kansas Health Institute, the DCF spokesman said the number of children in foster care was growing because they were in the system for longer periods of time, not because more children were entering the system.
To see an earlier KHI story on this topic, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/legislators-may-ramp-up-scrutiny-of-foster-care-system/.