Last week the Department for Children and Families dealt with the controversy of a negative audit of the foster care services provided through the state. The report, released by the Legislature’s post-audit team, found many areas of concern regarding the safety of children in foster care in Kansas.
After reading through the audit report, it is obvious there are areas for improvement. Is foster care good for children? No. No, of course foster care is not good for children. If foster care was good for children we would sign all of our children up rather than sending them to summer camp.
Foster care is a system designed to be used in the most serious of situations as a temporary solution. It is not intended to be where children are raised for an indefinite period of time. Yet the number of children in foster care in Kansas continues to climb at alarming rates and they are remaining in foster care waiting for reintegration or adoptive placements for far too long.
Could DCF make improvements to ensure children in foster care are safer? Absolutely! But, until the state begins to value children more than saving money, that is not likely to happen. Privatizing foster care has resulted in foster care agencies bidding against one another, each contractor promising to do more with less. This has led to higher caseloads and unrealistic expectations for front-line workers. In the end it is children and those front-line workers that pay the highest price while the state saves a buck.
Governor Sam Brownback has led the state into a financial crisis that has resulted in cuts to preventative services that not only keep children in their homes, but also help to reintegrate children faster. Mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services and programs like Parents as Teachers have all been cut. All services that promote healthy families.
As the Legislature places blame on DCF, it is time they turn their pointed fingers back to themselves. It is our elected officials who determine the budget. It is our elected officials who have approved budgets that don’t meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and it is now our elected officials who should bare some responsibility for the failures of a system they have created.
Some day the children in foster care in Kansas will be old enough to vote. It is our responsibility to vote with them in mind in November.