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FIRST REPORT RELEASED ON KANSAS FOSTER CARE SETTLEMENT PROGRESS

For press inquiries: Christina Ostmeyer, costmeyer@kansasappleseed.org; Willis Jacobson, wjacobson@youthlaw.org; Camilla Jenkins, cjenkins@childrensrights.org; Jeffery Rotenber, jeffrey.rotenberg@dlapiper.com

(Kansas City, KS) — Today, a report on the State of Kansas’ progress in calendar year 2021 toward achieving the Performance Goals, Practice Improvements, and Outcomes of the McIntyre v. Howard Settlement Agreement was released by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Settlement’s independent monitor. The Settlement was approved by a federal court in January 2021.

The Settlement Agreement is the result of a class action lawsuit brought in November 2018 against state officials on behalf of foster children experiencing extreme placement instability and inadequate access to mental health resources. The Settlement Agreement requires structural changes to dramatically improve stability and supports for children in Kansas foster care, including ending the practice of night-to-night placements and housing children in unsuitable places like offices. The plaintiff co-counsel team consists of Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Kansas City attorney and Child Welfare Law Specialist Lori Burns-Bucklew, the National Center for Youth Law, Children’s Rights and the global law firm DLA Piper.

The monitor’s report provides a summary of efforts made by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to meet the Settlement Agreement commitments. The Center for the Study of Social Policy was selected as the independent, neutral monitor tasked with reviewing, validating, and reporting on Defendants’ performance and progress in reaching the settlement obligations.

“The release of the year one progress report offers some much-needed transparency into the challenges faced by the Kansas foster care system for many years. Kansas deserves credit for making progress in keeping children with their families and stabilizing placements for youth in foster care, but far too many children lack needed mental health supports and remain in unsuitable night-to-night placements, offices, detention facilities, and on runaway status,” said Leecia Welch, Deputy Legal Director, Children’s Rights.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy’s report provides an important baseline for measuring Kansas’s progress in meeting its obligations under the Settlement Agreement. Key findings include:

    • Kansas improved placement stability for youth in foster care. The Year One goal was seven moves per 1,000 days, and Kansas exceeded that goal with 5.84 moves per 1,000 days. The exit target is 4.4 moves per 1,000 days (p. 61). Kansas also met its second placement stability goal demonstrating that in 86 percent of cases reviewed, the child was in a stable placement. The year one goal was 80 percent, and 90 percent is needed by Period 3 (p. 63-64).
    • Kansas did not end the practice of relying on temporary overnight placements in 2021—data showed that 53 children experienced an overnight placement in an office or other inappropriate place for a total of 69 episodes. In 72 percent of the episodes, the reason for the overnight placement was due to a same-day placement disruption where the provider was unable to find a placement that night and the episode lasted a single night (p. 45).
    • Kansas lacks a Statewide Automated Child Welfare Implementation System (SACWIS). The lack of a statewide data system impeded the ability of the State to meet its data reporting requirements in the first year of settlement implementation, including measuring caseloads and evaluating placement moves (p. 9, 29, 33).

“The monitor’s report demonstrates that there is currently a serious lack of data regarding what is happening with Kansas children in foster care, which will continue to impede reform efforts and put already vulnerable children in harm’s way. To solve this troubling problem, Kansas must invest in a statewide information system that tracks the placements and outcomes of its children in foster care and the services being provided by the state’s contractors,” said Poonam Juneja, Senior Managing Director, National Center for Youth Law.

“When we brought our suit, years of mismanagement and cuts to family support programs left our state’s child welfare system broken and overburdened,” said Teresa Woody, Kansas Appleseed Litigation Director. “Since reaching our settlement agreement, Kansas has improved many outcomes for Kansas kids, but much work remains. It is everyone’s duty—including the Legislature as well as the Administration—to ensure Kansas children are provided the safety and stability they deserve.”

To read the full report, click here.

More details about McIntyre v. Howard found here.

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About Kansas Appleseed: is a statewide organization that believes Kansans, working together, can build a state full of thriving, inclusive, and just communities. Kansas Appleseed conducts policy research and analysis and works with communities and partners to understand the root causes of problems and advocate for comprehensive solutions. For more information, please visit www.kansasappleseed.org.

About Lori Burns-Bucklew: Lori Burns-Bucklew is a Kansas City attorney in private practice. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and began practice in 1984. An accredited Child Welfare Law Specialist, she has represented children and youth; as well as parents, grandparents, and other caregivers for children whose families are subjected to state intervention. She has served as class counsel in several civil rights class action matters on behalf of children in state care. She has trained hundreds of lawyers in the Kansas City Metropolitan region regarding child welfare law and children’s issues.

The National Center for Youth Law centers youth through research, community collaboration, impact litigation, and policy advocacy that fundamentally transforms our nation’s approach to education, health, immigration, foster care, and youth justice. Our vision is a world in which every child thrives and has a full and fair opportunity to achieve the future they envision for themselves. For more information, visit www.youthlaw.org.

About Children’s Rights: Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.

About DLA Piper: DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries to help clients with their legal needs around the world. DLA Piper has a long-standing and deep commitment to giving back to our communities through pro bono legal services, and it is one of the largest providers of pro bono legal services globally. www.dlapiper.com.