Kansas agency defends new process for child welfare services

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -

The head of the Kansas Department of Children and Families says the agency's new process for choosing providers will make the agency's decisions more transparent.

The department is awarding grants rather than using traditional contracts, which were overseen by the Department of Administration.

Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said Thursday the awarding of grants has been the most transparent process the agency has ever had. She introduced three providers who will receive four-year grants for foster care and family preservation.

Child welfare task force recommends major changes to DCF

Some child care advocates are questioning why the state decided to change the process.

The Kansas City Star reports the state of Kansas has solicited bids for child welfare contracts for decades, using a process that included oversight by the Department of Administration and strict guidelines that promoted competition and ensured accountability.

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Kansas will boost its annual spending on foster care by $35 million under state Department for Families and Children grants that have been awarded to five contractors.

DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel had a news conference Thursday to introduce the contractors and discuss how she believes the grants will improve services for abused and neglected children. The department announced them Nov. 1 , six months after requesting proposals from interested parties.

The grants run four years, starting July 1. The state expects to spend $245 million on foster care during the fiscal year beginning on that date. That's a 17 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Departing Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer's administration announced the grants five days before Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly was elected governor. She takes office Jan. 14.