Child welfare task force recommends major changes to DCF

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A special task force to find ways to improve the state’s child welfare system, including the Department of Children and Families (DCF), made nearly two dozen recommendations to lawmakers Tuesday.

“There are children’s lives at stake…We have over 7500 children in the system right now. They’re depending on us,” said Sen. Vicki Schmidt, (R) Topeka, chair of the Child Welfare Task Force.  “We didn’t just throw out a whole bunch of recommendations and say, take your pick. We actually prioritized them.”

Among the task force’s top priorities is making more funds available to bring in more child welfare workers and to pay those already on the job better.

Another top concern was saving workers time on the job by consolidating multiple different computer systems.

“If you have to enter nine computers systems to help a child, that… that’s a hindrance. That’s a work obstacle,” said Schmidt.

 Even as the task force was finalizing its recommendations Tuesday, it was learning new details about the child welfare system.  This included the fact Kansas has 140 children waiting for beds at psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

“The state created a shortage of beds,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, (D) Topeka, “by underfunding, essentially starving some of those facilities so that they could no longer operate.”

The problems surrounding DCF run from children spending the night on office floors to a lawsuit alleging Kansas is making children homeless through its DCF policies.

Lawmakers are hopeful one member of the task force will help these recommendations become laws to protect children.  Sen. Laura Kelly is now Governor-elect Laura Kelly.

“I don’t think it’s a bipartisan issue anymore,” Kelly said.  “You can see from this task force that this is all Kansans coming together, recognizing that we are not doing right by our kids and families at this point.”

Because she will be Kansas’ governor, tasked with signing into law, or not, any bills that come from these recommendations, Kelly chose to abstain from the vote approving them.

One thing this task force didn’t do is suggest how much money all these changes should cost.  That will be up to lawmakers to figure out, when the go back to work in January.