The child protection vacancy rate has dropped by almost 60 percent. The number of missing and runaway youth has dropped 26.7 percent. Risk Removal Staffing’s have kept 86 youth from needing to enter care in the last three months. We anticipate finalizing 1,500 adoptions in FY 19, double the number of adoptions in FY 18. We have added approximately 150 beds to the continuum of care, and continue to add more. With Governor Colyer, we introduced legislation that was passed by the Kansas Legislature to increase agency transparency. We have made initial necessary investments in child welfare, and Kansas is one of three states currently pursuing the Family First Prevention Services Act, innovative legislation that will bring evidence-based, preventative services to this state.
These accomplishments and improvements are only to name a few that have taken place at the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) in one short year. When I arrived at the agency on Dec. 5, 2017, one of the first decisions I made as Secretary was to surround myself with a fast-moving and reliable team. I put together a team of life-long Kansans and public servants with more than 300 years of combined experience at the agency. Every decision we have made in the last year has not been made lightly, and they ultimately were made for the betterment of the agency and those we serve on a daily basis.
I know that at times, our decisions have been scrutinized and while I welcome constructive criticism, there have often been misconceptions and false information in the criticism we receive. Yes, there is still work to be done and yes, child welfare is complex, difficult work that is controversial by nature. While you might not hear about DCF’s good news in the media or from advocates, there has been dramatic change at the agency in one year. Long before advocacy groups publicly addressed issues within the system, my team and I had identified the issues to be addressed and talked about them publicly. Not only did we identify the issues, but we faced the challenges head on and rolled up our sleeves to fix them. You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines complaining. You make progress by jumping in and implementing ideas. For example, prior to my arrival, youth staying overnight in offices was a looming issue, but due to our creative thinking and the diligent work of our contracted partners, we no longer have youth staying overnight in offices. In fact, the last time a youth stayed overnight was on Sept. 20, 2018.
I am proud of the real, forward movement we have made and continue to make for the children and families of Kansas. Having been in Kansas child welfare for 26 years, I know this isn’t easy work, but it is probably the most rewarding thing you can do. I have felt humbled and honored to lead DCF from being an embattled, neglected agency to one that is improving how we serve Kansans on a daily basis. My commitment has and always will be to the children and families we serve, and it has been my greatest privilege to serve them every day for the last 26 years.
-Gina Meier-Hummel, Secretary
Kansas Department for Children and Families