Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel issued the following statement on Governor-Elect Kelly naming Laura Howard as interim Secretary of the agency, and requesting to hold child welfare grants:
“It has been my greatest honor and privilege to serve the children and families of Kansas under Governor Jeff Colyer’s leadership, and alongside some of the most dedicated public servants. Together, we have made many necessary changes and improvements in one year.
I brought on board a dedicated leadership team with more than 300 years of combined experience at the agency. We visited all 36 DCF offices and met with judges, legislators, foster parents, mental health professionals, advocates and other child welfare stakeholders. We increased child safety and wellbeing by changing key policies and procedures and implementing further mandated training. We successfully piloted a 24/7 phone line in Wichita where law enforcement and hospital workers can immediately report abuse or neglect instead of calling the Kansas Protection Report Center (KPRC). DCF also overhauled the KPRC, streamlining key processes and implementing Structured Decision Making (SDM). The child protection vacancy rate has dropped by 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, with a 49 percent diversion rate. 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, and I always made myself readily available to the media. 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.
All these changes and improvements would not have been possible without the hard work of DCF’s staff, our contracted providers, judges, legislators, foster parents, advocates and other child welfare stakeholders. I will be ever thankful for their tireless work and their dedication to the children and families of Kansas.
Since the agency announced the new case management and family preservation grants, we have been honest, transparent and forthright with the Child Welfare System Task Force, advocates and the general public about the changes in the grants and the bidding and review process. It should also be mentioned; the grants were constructed after gathering valued feedback from the public and child welfare stakeholders—we received more than 400 concerns about the current child welfare contracts. The bid review process was extensive and robust. Two internal DCF teams, consisting of DCF staff from across the state, analyzed and blind-scored each bid submission offsite for three days. These new grants are necessary to improve child welfare in Kansas and are in the absolute best interest for Kansas children and families. With that being said, DCF has been fully transparent and forthcoming with information about the grants with Governor-Elect Kelly’s transition team, and we will continue to collaborate with them and hold the grants, as has been requested. I personally called each provider this morning to express the new administration’s desires on this matter.
I wish Laura Howard the best in her new position, and I will be readily available to her in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition. From the moment Governor-Elect Kelly was integral in my unanimous confirmation as Secretary, I have enjoyed an honest and candid relationship with her. I wish her and her administration the best.”