Audit: Kansas foster care system puts children at risk

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State auditors say the Kansas Department for Children and Families is struggling to adequately oversee private foster care contractors, putting children in the system at risk.

The 59-page audit was released Wednesday, and found DCF is assigning children to foster homes that don't have space for them, lack financial resources, and do not keep proper documentation.

"Our reveal showed that DCF didn't follow up on all abuse and neglect calls in a timely matter and third we found out that DCF doesn't always ensure that background checks of individuals of foster homes happen as often," said Principal Auditor Laurel Murdie.

Department Secretary Phyllis Gilmore told the committee while she disagrees with some of the methodology auditors used, she admits DCF could do better.

"It sounds like a very negative audit which it is we would not disagree on many of it's findings," said Gilmore. "The primary mission of DCF is to protect and keep children safe."

Two Democratic Kansas senators are calling for the resignation of Gilmore, including state representative Jim Ward who requested the audit in the first place.

Ward issued the following statement:

"Secretary Gilmore's agency was told in 2013 they need to make improvements in nine key areas and they performed only one of those improvements. That's unacceptable. .. Now is the time to step up and get serious about improving a broken system that is failing Kansas kids."

Among other things, auditors said the agency has implemented only one of nine recommendations in a 2013 assessment of services. It also said the department doesn't ensure that background checks of individuals in foster homes are as frequent and thorough as they should be.

Gilmore told the committee they will use the audit to improve the system.

"The Kansas Department of Children and Family welcomes this review of the entire welfare system because we believe it will help us make life even better for the Kansas children," said Gilmore."This audit has given us new insides and continues on the issues that we were already aware."

Governor Brownback issued a statement saying Gilmore continues to have his full support and DCF works hard to protect children through complex and personal cases.

Brownback’s office also points out that the state's system ranked second nationally for child safety

Some state lawmakers sought the audit in response to reports of children dying or being mistreated while in the agency's care. The audit did not address allegations that the agency discriminates against same-sex couples when deciding where to place children.