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Federal Judge approves Kansas child welfare settlement agreement

Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard
Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard(WIBW)
Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 3:51 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A statewide child welfare class-action lawsuit has officially been settled in court.

The Kansas Department of Children and Families says it has applauded the approval of the settlement agreement in M.B. v Howard which demands a complete overhaul of Kansas’ foster care system.

“I want to thank Judge Crabtree and the plaintiffs for making this a collaborative process,” Howard said. “We’ve already begun the heavy lifting required of us to address the provisions laid out in the agreement, we know we have much work ahead of us to reinforce our commitment to Kansas children by building an effective child welfare system.”

According to the DCF, the class action lawsuit was filed in 2018 by Kansas Appleseed, Lori Burns-Bucklew, Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law against Governor Laura Kelly, the DCF, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It said Gov. Kelly was later dismissed from the case.

The DCF said the agreement outlines three categories of requirements it must focus on to ensure placement stability and access to mental health services. It said categories include accountability reporting and implementation, practice improvements and outcomes.

“We know these outcomes are achievable because we’ve already seen the positive results of the hard work DCF employees have put into these requirements,” Howard said. “I believe we can meet the timelines set forward in the agreement and ensure that Kansas isn’t caught up in never-ending litigation.”

According to the Department, as part of the settlement work, it has already organized a statewide placement stability workgroup of partners and providers to identify and implement improvements. Additionally, it said it will soon award a contract for Kansas Family Crisis Response and Support to allow DCF to offer crisis intervention services across the state.

The DCF said it has also increased supports to relative and foster caregivers and will soon issue RFP for innovations to support placement stability practice improvements included in the settlement agreement.

According to the DCF, with these efforts, the rate of moves for children in care has reduced over the past year.

However, Howard said she is not satisfied.

“We’ve made significant progress in slowing the number of foster youth who run away or don’t have a placement and end up in offices thanks to our enhanced special response team and by building a new child protection framework through new practice models like Team Decision Making and Family Finding,” said Howard. “I am committed to seeing this work through until the requirements are completed and being transparent about our progress along the way.”

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