TOPEKA – Having children placed in foster care can be devastating to a family. But Family Reunification Month is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
Children can be placed temporarily in foster care for numerous reasons, and in nearly 60 percent of cases, the children will be returned to their homes, due in large part to the efforts of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) and its partners to help families be reunified. The state has seen a 7 percent increase in reunified families over the past five years.
Governor Brownback has designated June as Family Reunification Month—a time to call attention to the work parents do to ensure that their children can return to a safe and loving home. During a May 22 proclamation signing at the State Capitol Building in Topeka, the Governor met with a family that was reunified after out-of home placement—a process that is overseen by the court, DCF and assigned foster care agencies.
The Topeka family says without the supports and services from DCF and its partners, they would not be where they are today—providing a healthy, loving environment for their children in their home.
“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.”
Families in the reunification process receive support in building independence, addressing safety concerns, increasing skills and connections in the community. 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.
“Families being together, being connected is beneficial for society as a whole,” KVC social worker Marcy Scott said. “We believe children grow best in families, and this is so important because they can then build connections, understanding and respect for others. When that can happen in their own homes, it promotes stability in the child’s life and eases the burden on the State to care for them.”
In the reunification process, families address the initial safety and stability concern that prompted removal. 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.
back row, left to right: Terry Zeferjohn Sr (father), Anna Seehorn, KVC
Aftercare Supervisor, Heather Waterman, KVC Aftercare Therapist, Marcy L.
Scott, KVC Director of Intensive In-Home Services, Shari Black, DCF Deputy
Director of Permanency/Training, Sandra Kimmons, DCF Director of Economic and
Employment Services, Pamela Beach, DCF West Regional Director.
left to right: Emily Zeferjohn, Terry Zeferjohn Jr, Governor Sam
Brownback, Lisa Zeferjohn, and Jennifer Zeferjohn.)