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5/14/2024


​Governor Kelly Ceremonially Signs SOUL Family Legal Permanency Bill

~~Kansas Becomes First State in the Country to Adopt the SOUL Family Option~~

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly ceremonially signed House Bill 2536 today, establishing the Support, Opportunity, Unity, and Legal (SOUL) Family permanency option for children aging out of the state’s foster care system.

“My administration has been focused on reforming our child welfare system and reducing the number of children and teenagers entering foster care,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “The changes we have made to our child welfare system have been significant and the SOUL Family permanency is another example of this. It is a tool that we can use to ensure Kansas foster children aging out of the system grow into the next phase of their life, finish their education, settle into jobs, and become contributing members of their community.”

The Kelly administration’s work has resulted in a nearly 20% drop in the total number of young people in foster care.

SOUL Family is a fourth pathway for teens 16 or older in foster care to obtain legal permanency and transition into adulthood via a custodian of their choice.

Previously, young people in custody of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) had three pathways for permanency, a term for a legally recognized family-like relationship. Those pathways were adoption, reintegration, and appointment of a custodian. Now, teens 16 and older can choose a person or a group of people they trust to help raise them as they enter adulthood.

“The SOUL Family option means young people who are aging out of foster care will be empowered to select the circle of caring adults who will help them as they move into adulthood,” DCF Secretary Laura Howard said. “The adults would agree to serve as legally recognized caregivers not just during the young person’s transition from foster care to adulthood, but for the rest of their lives.”

While adoption, reunification, and guardianship provide family for many youths, those pathways don’t always meet the needs of others. Stakeholders and those with lived experience in the foster care system testified to the need for the SOUL Family permanency option.

Kansas is the first state in the country to sign the Soul Family permanency option into law.

“When young people with lived foster care experience spoke, the legislature listened with the overwhelming support of the SOUL bill. This additional permanency option gives youth the freedom to select their SOUL family, providing the security and stability needed as they approach adulthood,” said Kansas State Representative Susan Concannon, District 107. “This is a game changer, and I’m so proud that Kansas is the first state to pass this innovative approach to permanency.” 

DCF is currently working on the implementation process, which includes building the criteria, practices, resources, benefits, and administrative structures to best support the safety and well-being of young people transitioning from foster care into court-approved legal SOUL Families. This fourth permanency option is expected to be available to young people in foster care this summer.

Young people with lived experience will continue to be involved in the implementation process.

Below are photos from today’s bill signing for media use:
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