by Madeline Fox, Kansas News Service
Officials with the Kansas Department for Children and Families responded Tuesday to concerns about destroyed evidence in child abuse cases during a legislative task force meeting.
After a Kansas City Star investigation suggested DCF employees had shredded documents regarding children in state care, an agency official told lawmakers that the claims by former DCF deputy director Dianne Keech were inaccurate.
“During Mrs. Keech’s time with the department, she claims the agency’s attorney directed staff to keep information from the public’s reach by a shredding of all notes. This is not an accurate statement,” said Steve Greene, director of policy and legislative affairs for DCF. “Ms. Keech is likely referring to direction given to staff that they should not include personal notes in case files for incident review. … This is not an effort to keep information from the public, but rather an effort to ensure the file only contains facts, observations pertinent to the case.”
Sen. Laura Kelly, who had asked Greene about the claims, said she was unsatisfied with the response to questions about the destruction of case file notes.
“They still have not answered my question,” said Kelly, a Topeka Democrat. “My question was very specifically, ‘Have social workers been asked to shred notes that they have taken during meetings on kids in custody?’ I don’t have the answer to that question from them yet.”
DCF has been confronted about child welfare problems during meetings of the task force, which legislators established earlier this year to examine issues with the state’s privatized foster care system. In the last few years, Kansas has repeatedly set records for the number of children in foster care.
During the September meeting, task force members learned that some children taken into custody were sleeping in contractors’ offices because placements could not be immediately found. At last month’s meeting DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore told task force member she was not aware of specific cases of foster kids running away from care.
Gilmore, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, announced earlier this month that she will retire Dec. 1.
In response to last month’s concerns about missing kids, DCF provided an updated count Tuesday to the task force. Officials said 77 kids were missing from care as of Nov. 12, with the largest number of runaways ages 15 to 18.
Madeline Fox is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @maddycfox. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.