TOPEKA – James Brown, Kansas City, has two energetic, playful children to raise. And he couldn’t be happier. Thanks to the efforts of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) and KVC, a DCF foster care contractor, Brown has his children back home after they spent about a year in foster care. Brown and his children were at the Kansas State Capitol Building, Topeka, recently to observe Governor Sam Brownback’s sign a proclamation, designating June as Family Reunification Month. It was also an opportunity for the Browns to celebrate their one year anniversary of being back together.
“I knew when they were taken from me, this is what I needed to do, I needed to learn to be a better father to them,” Brown said. “I didn’t feel distrust at any point. I knew (DCF and KVC) wanted the kids to be with me. I never had any sense that they wanted to take them permanently.”
Reintegration services are offered to parents by KVC in DCF’s Kansas City and East Regions and by Saint Francis Community Services in DCF’s West and Wichita Regions. The Governor’s proclamation brings attention to the work parents do to ensure that children placed into temporary foster care can return to a safe and loving home.
The court can place children in foster care for numerous reasons. And in nearly 60 percent of cases, the children will be returned to their homes after receiving services to help parents address safety concerns. Kansas has seen a 7 percent increase in reunified families over the past five years.
“It is always our goal to keep children in their homes when that is a safe option,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “When it’s not, we work with the parents to resolve their issues so that their children can be returned as quickly and safely as possible.”
KVC therapeutic case manager Lindsey Sharp was responsible for transporting Jayden and Adrianna Brown from a DCF office to a foster care placement. She says this part of her job is always difficult, regardless of the circumstances.
“It’s terrible, really awful,” said Sharp. “The kids are confused, and it’s not appropriate to tell them everything that’s going on. We usually just try to say that Mom and Dad have some things to work on to make home safe. The kids usually sort of understand, but it’s still scary for them.”
Sharp said that the removal of children from their homes begins a process of supervised visits and education and training for the parents. Families address the initial safety and stability concerns that prompted a judge to order removal.
Brown said he appreciated Sharp and the help KVC offered.
“There were always classes available for anything you needed,” Brown said. “Whatever the issue you were dealing with, they had the classes, the resources, whatever it was you were needing to work on.”
Sharp said Brown was a model client and serves as a source of inspiration to other parents who have experienced similar situations.
“I like seeing people work hard and really show that they want to be great parents,” said Sharp. “James cared and was motivated to work on the issues in his life. Denial is a problem with some people, but with him, he was motivated from the start.”
In fiscal year 2015, 1988 Kansas children were successfully reunified with their families. Once the family is reunified, robust aftercare services ensure the family continues to make positive strides. More than 90 percent of children reunified with their families do not return to foster care within 12 months.
Governor Brownback with the Brown family and child welfare staff during the May 25 proclamation signing, Topeka.