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State Finance Council approves settlement for lawsuit involving Kansas’ foster care system

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 6:44 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Children in Kansas foster care will no longer sleep in offices overnight under a settlement winning unanimous approval Wednesday from the state finance council

The State Finance Council voted unanimously in favor of the agreement in the case known as McIntyre v. Howard. Their session was held mostly behind closed doors because of attorney-client privilege.

“The settlement agreement affirms our commitment to Kansas children by continuing efforts to build an effective child welfare system,” KS Dept. for Children and Families secretary Laura Howard said. “The work we agreed to complete to resolve this lawsuit began a year and half ago when I stepped into my role as Secretary and will continue to be our primary focus.”

The lawsuit was filed in November 2018 by advocacy groups Kansas Appleseed, Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law on behalf of several children in the Kansas foster care system. The lawsuit claimed the state was not meeting the mental health needs of the children, and kids in foster care were subject to frequent changes in housing. One child named in the lawsuit had more than 100 placements in less than three years.

The settlement does not involve money, but promises several reforms, based on the areas of accountability, improved practices, and outcomes.

“This lawsuit is intended to clear up a lot of the problems that we had within the foster care system,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said. “At least progress is being made in terms of negotiating and a good-faith effort to make sure our foster care system is better and directly responds to the issues that foster kids face in their daily lives.”

The Kansas Dept. for Children and Families released details of the settlement agreement Wednesday night. Among other things, DCF will end night-to-night placements, speed up mental health screenings and treatment, form an independent advisory group, and ensure children are moved no more than once a year.

“One problem in particular is that kids won’t be sleeping in offices or being placed in motels and hotels overnight like we had seen before. That’s a problem I think that will be resolved by the settlement,” Hensley said.

The agreement will be filed with district court Thursday. The court will set a hearing within the next 90 days to approve the settlement.

Requirements of the agreement:

Accountability reporting and implementation:

· Amending foster care provider agreements to include practice improvements and outcomes within 30 days of the order.

· Developing an independent advisory group to inform action planning and improvement within six months of the order

· Reporting and validation of number and placement duration of youth placed in detention or juvenile justice placement and foster care caseloads

  • Validating performance data through a neutral entity
  • Establishing annual reporting periods during Jan. – Dec. 2021-23

Practice improvement:

· Ending the use of offices for overnight stays

· Ensuring crisis intervention service statewide

· Ending night to night placements with exception to those deemed appropriate by CFSR placement stability standards by December 2021.

· Ending short-term placements that are 14 days or shorter by Dec. 2023

· Ending delays in authorizing mental health treatment

· Ensuring no placement exceeds its licensed capacity without an approved policy exception

Outcomes:

· Achieving placement stability for children entering care at a rate 4.44 moves or fewer per 1,000 days in care

· Providing children an initial trauma and mental health screening within 30 days of entering care

· Providing a stable placement as measured in federal case review for at least 90% of children in care

· Ensuring 90% of children have their mental health needs addressed as measured in federal case review

· Ensuring that in a 12-month reporting period children have one or fewer moves in the previous 12 months

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