To the governor of Kansas, the Kansas state legislators and the Kansas citizens, I must say to you with all due respect, Kansas child welfare is slavery. After many years of going to community meetings, legislative hearings and work sessions, I have concluded that the child welfare laws, policies and procedures are broken. The system is in urgent need of a complete overhaul.
In 2019, it is my hope that we start now to make immediate changes. The citizens should require that our children are loved, healthy, educated, protected and safe, especially if they are under the government control.
If the government can’t perform these five responsibilities, then they should get out of the business of children. Right now, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has children dying, children missing, children being drugged, millions returned to the federal government due to forms not being filed timely, children in agencies’ offices due to a lack of enough emergency foster homes, fingerprinting children, the hotline number is not responsive, caseworkers do not return calls, and there’s not a phone number to call to complain against agencies or to get help.
We should do better, for the children’s sake. Rest assured, if I had a meeting tomorrow concerning child welfare, I would have more complaints, such as grandparents having difficulties getting their grandchildren, and why is Kansas the only state in the United States to take children away from their parents for neglect?
I know the complaints and conditions of the child welfare system are complex. The bottom line in Kansas is the privatized child welfare system. It is just plain wrong and a cruel system. Children are being treated as commodities, yes, commodities, exploited to make profit for agencies. Children are at risk when making profits before their best interest. I do not see the foster care parents getting rich, but I do see large buildings owned and operated by KVC and St. Francis across the state. That would not be possible if the agencies are not making profits off of children in foster care.
Please, Gov. Kelly, I know you changed the secretary of DCF and stopped the grants temporarily. We need you to be bold again and have the courage to end privatization. The system strips children of their rights, the right to be raised by their parents or a family member. What about before separation of children from their parents, the psychological damage that occurs? Kansas is putting children on the auction block for sale, all in the name of child welfare. Due process has been denied the children. The more children in foster care, the more money for agencies. Children are property. Privatized children in foster care is not moral, it is unjust. Please consider the consequences of this law. It is bad for Kansas, it is bad for DCF, and it is bad for our children. We can do better, and should. End privatized foster care now. If it were your child or family member, what would you do?
Mary Martin (Certified Colorado court-appointed special advocate for children)
Kansas City, Kansas