Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard today announced expanded efforts to locate youth who have run away from their foster care placements. The new tactics address resources within the department and with the state’s foster care grantees.
“As in past years, DCF is seeing an uptick in the number of runaway teens as the weather warms up,” Howard said. “It’s apparent that we need to expand our efforts to locate our youth and address the underlying reasons why kids run.”
In the short-term, DCF has repurposed staff in the Wichita regional office to supplement the agency’s special response team in Topeka to address the recent surge in runaways.
Additionally, DCF is building a broader community outreach effort through changes in the contract with foster care grantees. The agency has added a requirement that each of the state’s foster care grantees add a dedicated non-case-carrying position in each of their regions. Four positions will be added in May two each for KVC and St. Francis. TFI and Cornerstones of Care will add two each by Oct. 1 for a total of eight. The individuals will work collaboratively and in concert with the agency’s special response team.
“The short and long-term strategies to locate children and address the underlying reasons they run will help ensure our most vulnerable children are safe,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “Increasing staff and adding accountability measures with our grantees are major steps towards addressing one of my top priorities.”
“This effort will put individuals into place across the state who can build relationships with these youth, especially those who are prone to run,” Howard explained. “This provides more opportunity to identify and address the underlying reasons behind the kids running.
The grant changes will provide the opportunity to develop a team of colleagues who learn best practices in addressing the issue and builds shared accountability between the grantees and DCF in addressing this critical issue.”