Lawmaker and advocate want DCF oversight

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Lawmakers are taking the next step in improving the states foster care system. They are looking to start a task force to hold the system accountable.

The proposed foster care task force oversight committee would be comprised of 18 voting members. The goal would be to review the work of the department for children and families and foster care contractors which some say is needed after high profile child abuse deaths. 

The Kansas Department for Children and Families, better known as DCF, is a private agency fully funded through the state with the role of protecting Kansas children from abuse and broken homes. Yet, the agency has a troubled past and lawmakers are hoping to fix it by proposing a foster care task force.  Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau says it is about transparency. 

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"Parents are telling me is that they will jump through so many hoops of trying to satisfy the request for the court and the social workers," said Faust-Goudeau. "And they are devastated because they have done all these things."

Child welfare advocate Jennifer Winn believes the state should have stepped in sooner.

"You know parents don't trust DCF. They don't trust Saint Francis. They don't trust the courts; and they have good cause not to," said Winn. 

There are plenty of examples. In 2012, Jayla Haag was abused and killed by her mother's boyfriend, and more recently, baby Ciana suffered injuries from again from her mother's boyfriend, so severe she had to be hospitalized according to a family friend. 

"DCF knew it was a handprint. They knew there was abuse going on in the home, and yes they were coming weekly, but they weren't doing their jobs as well as they should have been," Darla Grebemik told KAKE News at a DCF protest in September. 

In both cases DCF had been investigating abuse claims. Winn hopes the task force will include members of the public and will help streamline the process to make it better. 

"I want this committee in force, because we can then work from there, we can build on that task force," said Winn. 

KAKE news reached out to DCF for comment on the proposed task force. They issued this statement: 

"Dcf submitted neutral testimony pertaining to the proposed legislation. The agency is dedicated to improving the safety and well-being of Kansas children. We are happy to collaborate with lawmakers, community groups and the general public to protect children from abuse and neglect."

The bill currently in Topeka is now heading to a conference committee. 

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