TOPEKA – Helping families at the first sign of trouble and offering stability to children in State care are among the top priorities that have emerged from a recent national meeting on foster care. Kansas leaders returned this week from Philadelphia, Pa., following the first meeting of the national Governor’s Association’s (NGA) Three Branch Institute on Child Social and Emotional Well-Being.
“I’m excited that Kansas is playing an integral part in developing improvements to foster care for children across our nation,” Governor Sam Brownback said.
In May, Governor Brownback and Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Phyllis Gilmore announced the State of Kansas was selected to participate in the Institute. Kansas was one of seven states chosen to focus on improving the social and emotional well-being of children in foster care through an integrated and comprehensive approach that aligns the work of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
“This integrated approach to improving foster care is essential for positive change,” Secretary Gilmore said. “We know that when everyone is on the same page, we can really make a difference in the lives of children.”
The goal of the institute is to develop state-specific plans to promote and measure well-being among children and youth who receive child welfare services; consider evidence-based and research-informed strategies that will have a positive effect; and coordinate and enhance existing efforts through cross-system collaboration and by leveraging Medicaid and other federal and state dollars to fund innovative practices.
Preliminary state goals outline at the Institute:
• Help struggling families at the first sign of trouble, while children can safely be kept in the home, in an effort to reduce the number of children placed in out-of-home care
• Provide a more stable environment for children in out-of-home care, by avoiding multiple transfers of custody and school placement
• Provide permanence for children in a shorter time period, whether through reintegration back into their home or, if needed, adoption
Kansas is represented on the team by the following members:
• Kathy Armstrong, DCF Assistant Director for Legal Services
• Brian Dempsey, DCF Deputy Director, Prevention and Protection Services
• Chief Judge Merlin Wheeler, Emporia
• Mark Gleeson, Kansas Supreme Court Director of Trial Court Programs, Office of Judicial Administration
• Representative Jene Vickrey, Kansas House Majority Leader
• Senator Forrest Knox, Kansas Senate
Group members say the coordinated effort between the different branches of government will ensure good outcomes.
“This is the only practical way that I see to bring positive, significant, achievable change in foster care outcomes,” Senator Knox said.
The Institute is supported by NGA, National Conference of State Legislatures, Casey Family Programs, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and national Council of State Courts.
Other states selected for the team include Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.