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Nine Months after Lawsuit Filed, Extreme Lack of Housing and Mental Health Services in Kansas Foster Care Continue

Four New Plaintiffs Identified in Child Welfare Lawsuit

Contact: Daniel Kessel, 646-216-3343, dkessel@childrensrights.org

Children in the Kansas child welfare system are still experiencing a basic denial of shelter in foster care with extreme disruptions to their stability – with children in foster care still being moved more than 50 or 100 times – almost nine months after litigation was filed against the state. Kansas Appleseed, attorney Lori Burns-Bucklew, the National Center for Youth Law,  DLA Piper LLP, and Children’s Rights asked the Court for permission to file an amended complaint on August 30th, adding four new plaintiffs to the lawsuit. All plaintiffs have experienced the traumatizing effects of multiple placements and lack of consistent mental health services while in the custody of the Kansas Department for Children and Families:

  • B., 7 years old, has been subjected to extreme housing disruption, moved 35 times since April 2018, and often forced to spend his days in the KVC contract agency offices between night-to-night placements. He is not receiving adequate services to meet identified mental health treatment needs.
  • R. is a 17-year-old girl. R.R. has been moved among over 100 placements in nearly three years in DCF custody, including night-to-night and short-term placements and overnight stays at a KVC office. While placed in the KVC Wheatland shelter, in which she was the only girl, R.R. was subjected to unprotected sexual intercourse to which she lacked the capacity to consent, resulting in an extreme deterioration in her mental health.
  • A. is a 12-year-old boy who has been in foster care for six years. From January 2017 to the present, M.A. has been moved at least 62 times, including 16 placements since March 2019. Though diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive mood regulation disorder and anxiety, M.A. has not received adequate or consistent mental health services while in care.
  • P., 10 years old, has not lived in a single home for more than six months since entering care in 2016. She has been moved through 21 placements. DCF’s churning practice has caused J.P. to change schools frequently, sometimes not attending school at all.

Extreme placement instability remains dangerously high. For each month from July 2018 to June 2019, the average number of placements for children for 1,000 days in foster care ranges from 9.3 to 10.3 – which is roughly one new placement every three months for more than 2.5 years.

This placement rate is more than double the recommended maximum four times a child should be moved within a child welfare system in a 1,000-day period giving Kansas a dubious distinction among the states.

The number of children who re-entered the child welfare system within one year of exiting increased from June 2018 to June 2019, signaling a lack of progress in ensuring children successfully exit foster care.

SPOKESPERSONS:

  • Teresa Woody, litigation director, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice: “Children who have been traumatized by the very system meant to protect them need stability and appropriate mental and behavioral health services. Nine months after we filed our complaint, Kansas has continued to fail to deliver any of these.”
  • Lori Burns-Bucklew, attorney: “At issue is children’s safety while in Kansas foster care. It is unacceptable that despite promises made in public to improve the child welfare system, the state has not made substantial progress in addressing our core claims: the lack of stable housing and the lack of appropriate mental health services for our most vulnerable children.”
  • Leecia Welch, senior director, Legal Advocacy and Child Welfare, National Center for Youth Law: “Kansas’s inability to provide safe, appropriate and stable housing for the children in its care is an ongoing crisis. The failure to develop and maintain adequate foster care placements has impeded children from getting the mental health services they need, deprived them of schooling, and forced them into settings where they have been sexually assaulted, commercially sexually exploited, and otherwise placed in harm’s way.”
  • Ira Lustbader, litigation director, Children’s Rights: “The denial of basic shelter and mental health care to Kansas foster kids continues. We are pressing forward in this lawsuit so these harmful violations of children’s rights can be stopped and kids can get the basic support they need.”

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Children’s Rights: Fighting to transform America’s failing child welfare, juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems is one of the most important social justice movements of our time. Through strategic advocacy and legal action, Children’s Rights holds state governments accountable to America’s most vulnerable children. A national watchdog organization since 1995, Children’s Rights fights to protect and defend the rights of young people, because we believe that children have the right to the best possible futures. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.

The National Center for Youth Law: The National Center for Youth Law is a nonprofit law firm that helps low-income children achieve their potential by transforming the public agencies that serve them. For more information, please visit www.youthlaw.org.

Kansas Appleseed: Kansas Appleseed is a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to the belief that Kansans, working together, can build a more thriving, inclusive, and just state. Kansas Appleseed works with community partners to understand the root causes of problems, support strong grassroots coalitions, and advocate for comprehensive solutions so all Kansans can reach their full potential. When necessary, Kansas Appleseed pursues impact litigation to protect Kansans’ rights and wellbeing. For more information please visit www.kansasappleseed.org.

DLA Piper LLP: DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. In certain jurisdictions, this information may be considered attorney advertising. For more information, visit www.dlapiper.com.

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