TOPEKA – Earlier this week, the Kansas House passed House Substitute for Senate Bill 336, known as the DCF Records Concerning a Child Fatality bill, and today, the Kansas Senate followed suit by providing overwhelming support of the measure originally proposed by Governor Jeff Colyer and Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel. The measure mandates the agency to timely release certain information it has, upon request, following the death of a child that resulted from abuse and/or neglect.
“When these unfortunate deaths occur, we work diligently to review our history with affected families and determine if steps can be taken to prevent further tragedies,” said Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel. “Toward the goals of transparency and accountability, it’s also important that the public and those affected are made aware of the agency’s involvement and response to protect these innocent victims.”
Current law allows DCF discretion to release procedural information related to child deaths. Historically, the agency has rarely and inconsistently provided these details. Under the just-passed bill, the Secretary would be mandated to disclose additional details, not currently allowed, such as the age and sex of the child; the date of the fatality; a summary related to the department’s processes and procedures of any previous reports of abuse or neglect received by the secretary involving the child and the findings of any said reports; and any department-recommended services provided to the child. This disclosure is allowed under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
“I want to thank the Legislature for supporting this much-needed measure that will add another layer of transparency to State government,” said Governor Colyer. “Kansans should quickly have access to this information following these unthinkable tragedies.”
The measure was originally proposed as House Bill 2728, as an amendment to the Kansas Child in Need of Care Code, 38-2212(f)(1). The current bill that passed both Kansas chambers will now go to the Governor to sign into law. The measure will not affect the existing seven-day provision for the release of the agency’s social file, that requires notification to be made to affected parties, who may petition the court to prohibit the release of DCF records.