A major treatment facility for Kansas foster kids almost closed. A new tenant wants to save it
TOPEKA, Kansas — One of the largest residential facilities in Kansas for boys who need more help than most foster care homes can offer looks to be spared from closure.
Sequel of Kansas LLC signed the original lease for the Lakeside Academy in Wichita around 2008 and recently told the Department for Children and Families it would no longer operate the facility. That could have meant closing down the operation.
But the owner of the property said another company, Successful Dreams, plans to take over.
“Everything has been agreed to,” said Dick Kelsey, former state legislator and owner of the Lakeside property. “It takes a while to get it on paper and get the signatures, but it's a done deal.”
Kelsey said Successful Dreams starts running the facility on May 1. Mike Deines, senior director of public and governmental affairs at DCF, wasn’t able to confirm that a new company has taken over, but he said things are moving in that direction.
Successful Dreams didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Matt Stephens, vice president of children and family services at St. Francis Ministries, said Lakeside is a helpful resource for the agency. Foster care systems prefer to place children in home-like settings for children, but Stephens said treatment facilities do have benefits.
The facility has 45 beds and St. Francis has children there now. Stephens said he got a letter in mid-March saying the location was closing. That meant those children appeared to need new homes.
“To find 45 additional beds probably isn't the biggest issue,” he said, “it's really making sure we find the right beds and the abilities from a behavior standpoint. That really is what becomes more challenging is making sure that we have the right mix of beds in the system.”
Stephens said it is difficult to make sure services match the needs of children. Losing a provider like the Lakeside Academy could further complicate that issue. One component of that is beds being unavailable because there isn’t staff to fill them.
“Lakeside is obviously one piece of the equation,” he said. “But I think it's broader than that. It is making sure that we can evaluate the needs of the children in care and make sure that the capacities and the system matches those needs.”
Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka. You can follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa or email him at [email protected]
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.