What began as a children's summer camp run by Maxine and Delbert Johnson near Admire has grown into an agency serving thousands of children across multiple states.
TFI Family Services — formerly known as The Farm, Inc. — is a child welfare agency committed to providing compassionate and quality services and care to meet the needs of families and children in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska. TFI provides a number of services, including foster and kinship care, domestic and international adoption, counseling support and eduction and TIPS-MAPP training. They also serve as visitation and exchange centers.
"We set out to serve children and families – that was our mission," Chief Financial Officer Todd Wright said. "There were a lot of children and families in the Emporia area and the surrounding area, and as the need grew, we thought we could provide quality services — and really, some unique services — that would assist these children in trying to get them reunified with their parents."
TFI began specializing in longterm residential care with the goal to keep siblings together in the 1980s, and was able to use those skills and tools to provide a larger scale of services. By 1996, Kansas was among the first two states in the nation to privatize child welfare services and TFI became a large subcontractor for a wide array of family foster care and adoption services.
When other states began to privatize their child welfare services, TFI saw an opportunity to expand as a way to share its knowledge. The organization continued its growth through the 2000s, expanding its services into Nebraska and Oklahoma in 2012 and in Texas in 2014.
Wright said TFI served more than 5,000 children in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska last year, with about 1,500 of those in the Kansas region alone.
"We currently take care of about 1,500 kids with a couple of large grants for areas No. 8 and 4 in southeast Kansas," Wright said. "We also provide services in Nebraska. We are a large foster care contractor in Oklahoma and we also provide foster care and placement management services in Texas. ... Many of the providers that were located in those states did not have any experience with privatization because the state was running all of those types of programs. The non-profits would not have any experience, but of course we had it, because Kansas had an early entry into privatization. We felt like we could more quickly and effectively help out in those areas."
TFI also operates several residential and psychiatric facilities within the state to help children in various states of need.
Wright said the mission to serve families and children in need has not diminished in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While stay-at-home guidelines, social distancing and other ordinances changed some operations, overall TFI has been able to meet the need for its clients.
"We have tried to be very, very careful and been very successful with that," he said. "We have had some very wonderful foster parents step up and recognize the needs for somebody to care for children in these circumstances."
Wright said the need for more foster parents still remains.
"There's always a need for parents in general, but also for people to invest time in the older children who are harder to place," he said.
As the organization has expanded over the years, the bulk of TFI's administrative services have remained based out of Emporia.
"We have been here for a longtime in the community ... and the community has always been a real benefit to us and a real strength," Wright said. "All of this work that we are doing in other places, it benefits this community because this is where a lot of the support work is done. Our financial work is done here, our purchasing is done here through Emporia, and there are a variety of other pieces that are really important and located here in the community. We appreciate all of that local support that we have always had."