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Report: Kansas Must Fix Troubled Child Welfare System

Advocates: Black Kids Are More Likely To Land In Foster Care, Just One Thing That Needs Fixing  
By Madeline Fox

African-American children are much more likely to land in the Kansas foster care system than white children.  A report from Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope, a coalition of organizations and people who have experience with the foster care system, concluded that Kansas falls in line with national trends. But the disparity in Kansas, with black children 75 percent more likely than white children to be pulled from their homes, has gotten worse in the past two years. 

Coalition member Tara Wallace said that reflects the strain of having a record number of kids in foster care in Kansas.  “At the rate we’re going,” she said, “this situation is only perpetuating itself.”  Wallace is the president of the Topeka chapter of the Kansas African American Foster Care/Adoption Coalition. She joined five former foster youth, representatives of social workers and the ACLU, the foster parent organization FosterAdopt Connect, the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs, Kansas Appleseed and other individuals with past or current experience working in child welfare to form the coalition’s steering committee. 

The report released Thursday morning echoes concerns brought up by a task force examining Kansas foster care and a recently filed federal lawsuit that alleges Kansas has rendered children in its care effectively homeless with frequent moves.  Strengthen Families Rebuild Hope recommended Kansas better support struggling families with improvements to safety net programs such as food stamps and cash welfare.  “Families are on this tightrope,” said Becky Fast, a coalition member who heads the National Association of Social Workers’ Kansas chapter. “When you don’t have food assistance, cash assistance, that our state used to provide, that often knocks them off.”  Learn more about this story from the Kansas News Service.

(AP version)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report by a coalition of legislators and advocates says Kansas must fix its troubled child welfare system now or more vulnerable children will suffer.  The Kansas City Star reported Thursday's document details problems ranging from racial disparities in children removed from their homes to children lingering in state custody too long. The group spent the past year hosting town halls.  A recent review of the Kansas Department for Children and Families also exposed high caseloads, alarming turnover and lack of timely training. At the same time, a record number of children have been in foster care.  Among the coalition's recommendations is to improve funding for food stamp benefits and other programs targeting needy families. It advocates for keeping more children in their homes and addressing the racial disparity.

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